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Japanese broadcast fees face hike

Ministry considering increase for 2008

TOKYO — Japanese broadcasters will face a hike in fees they pay for radio wave use, if Communications Minister Yoshihide Suga has his way.

Speaking in Germany on Friday, Suga said the ministry is considering a fee increase for broadcasters for the 2008 fiscal year.

As a main beneficiary of fee revenues, TV broadcasters “should pay an appropriate amount,” Suga said.

In fiscal 2006 broadcasters coughed up ¥3.8 billion ($32 million) in radio wave fees, or 6% of the $546 million total. Mobile phone operators paid 85% of the fees, even though 30% of the fee income went to digitization of terrestrial broadcasts, prompting cries of unfairness from the cell phone crowd.

Suga said the ministry will set up a study group this month to review NHK’s subscription-fee system.

Struggling with massive numbers of nonpayers and a consequent drop in revenues, the pubcaster is clamoring for regulatory revision to force deadbeats to open their wallets. In response, Suga has called for a 20% cut in NHK sub fees and a reduction in fee collection costs, currently $639 million annually, in exchange for ministry support of compulsory fee regs.

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