NHK governor withheld payments for license fee

Kyodo

A recently appointed member of NHK’s board of governors has admitted withholding payment of the license fee for two months in 2005 to protest a program about the controversial issue of whether school teachers should be required to sing the national anthem.

Michiko Hasegawa drew attention last month after it was reported she praised a rightwing activist who fatally shot himself in 1993 at the Asahi Shimbun daily’s Tokyo head office.

A column in the July 2005 edition of the monthly magazine Seiron carried two letters by Hasegawa, who expressed her intention not to pay the fee. The professor emeritus at Saitama University, who was appointed to the NHK board of governors last December, is said to have paid the sum at a later date.

Hasegawa said: “It was completely ignorant of me to think of suspending payments as the right of a viewer. Because I think there are many others in the world who have a misconception similar to the one I used to have, I’d like to loudly speak of this (obligation) with deep remorse.”

According to the magazine, Hasegawa criticized a “Close-up Gendai” program aired in March 2005 that looked at Tokyo public school teachers troubled by an order by the board of education to stand up and sing the national anthem at graduation ceremonies.

Hasegawa criticized the program in one of the letters, saying, “That was really terrible, wasn’t it?” “Because my automatic payment arrangements (with NHK) have just expired, I intend to continue to forgo payments until NHK changes its mind.”

The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education lodged a protest with NHK about the program for not sufficiently presenting its views, but NHK stood by its position. Hasegawa said in her second letter that her subscription payments “are likely to be a long way off.”

Under the broadcasting law, those with equipment capable of receiving NHK broadcasts must sign a contract and pay an annual license fee. There are no penalties, however, for failing to do so.

Hasegawa said that she learned about the payment obligation while she was studying prior to becoming a governor.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Thursday the government “does not believe there is a problem” as Hasegawa has already made up the lost payments and expressed remorse.