NHK to pony up 1.46 billion yen in back taxes

TOKYO — Pubcaster NHK will pay 1.46 billion yen ($14.2 million) in back taxes and penalties, the pubcaster announced Tuesday.

The payments relate to viewers’ fees that all TV owners in the country must pay and cover three years to March 2007.

Some 30% of viewers, upset by a series of NHK scandals — most of which involved producers pocketing chunks of program budgets — stopped paying their NHK fees, resulting in sharp drops in revenue.

But the National Tax Agency approved only a fraction of the tax deductions NHK made in response to the viewer-fee revenue decline.

NHK hopes to cut the number of viewers withholding their NHK fees to 15% by 2011. 

Meanwhile, an NHK panel probing insider trading by employees has concluded that 81 of 13,221 staffers have played the market, though none has been charged with insider trading.

The probe was prompted by revelations in February that three NHK employees bought shares of restaurant chain operator Zensho in 2007 just before the release of an NHK story that Zensho planned to buy into the Kappa Create sushi chain. They cashed in but later lost their jobs.

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