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Japan’s Suga may up TV fees

Broadcasters may pay more for radio wave use

TOKYO — Japanese broadcasters face a hike in the 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, Suga commented, TV broadcasters, “should pay an appropriate amount.”

In fiscal 2006 broadcasters coughed up 3.8 billion ($32 million) in radio wave fees, or 6% percent of the 65 billion ($546 million) total. Meanwhile, mobile phone operators paid 85 percent of the fees, even though 30 percent of the fee income went to digitalization of terrestrial broadcasts, prompting cries of unfairness from the cell phone crowd.

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

Struggling with massive numbers of non-payers 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 76 billion ($639 million) annually, in exchange for ministry support of compulsory fee regs.

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