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This week’s featured article

TOMOKO OTAKE, THE JAPAN TIMES

All households in Japan that possess a TV set are legally obliged to pay subscription fees to NHK regardless of whether they watch the public broadcaster’s programs. An engineering professor at Tsukuba University is now challenging that, with a device that filters out NHK’s broadcast signal.

Around 130 of the devices have been sold so far, mostly through online retailers, according to Hideki Kakeya, an associate professor of systems engineering at Tsukuba University in Ibaraki Prefecture.

The device filters out NHK signals only, thereby giving users the option of legally refusing to pay the subscription fee, he said. The filter for terrestrial broadcasting, which measures 7.5 cm by 2.1 cm, costs ¥7,965, while one designed for BS programs, 6 cm by 2.1 cm, costs ¥7,587.

Article 64 of the Broadcast Law stipulates that “a person who has installed equipment capable of receiving NHK broadcasts is mandated to reach a subscription contract (with NHK),” giving the broadcaster a legal basis for charging the monthly fees of ¥1,225 for terrestrial broadcasting programs and ¥2,170 for BS programs.

NHK said in a written statement to The Japan Times that the broadcaster is aware of Kakeya’s filter, but people using it are still mandated to pay subscription fees.

“The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has said that TV sets that have been altered so as not to receive NHK signals will be subject to contracts (with NHK) if they can be restored to the original state,” NHK said. “TV sets that have their antennas removed and have temporarily lost access to NHK broadcasts also need to have a contract, because access will return if the antennas are re-connected. Therefore, it’s our position that (people using) an antenna that is capable of cutting NHK signals need to subscribe.”

First published in The Japan Times on June 15.

Warm up

One minute chat about television.

Game

Collect words related to news; e.g., “newspaper,” “journalism,” “weather report.”

New words

1) possess: To have; e.g., “My father used to possess this land.”

2) oblige: Require by law or morals; e.g., “Citizens are obliged to pay taxes by law.”

3) subscription: paying an advance fee to receive access to media; e.g., “I have a subscription to the newspaper.”

4) terrestrial: of the Earth; e.g., “Digital terrestrial broadcasting has started.”

5) stipulate: to specify a requirement; e.g., “They stipulated conditions for television owners.”

6) mandate: an official order; e.g., “The process is mandated.”

Guess the headline

N_ _ f_ _ _ _ _ gives viewers ‘legal’ way to avoid Japan’s TV tax

Questions

1) What is this new filter for?

2) How much is the terrestrial broadcasting fee of NHK each month?

3) Does NHK say that filter users don’t have to pay the fee?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Where do you get your news?

2) Do you think this filter is a “legal” way to avoid NHK’s fee?

3) What do you expect from NHK as a public media?

Reference

ニュース情報はどこから入手していますか。近年の社会のデジタル化に伴い新聞を取らない家庭やPCはあるもののTVを持たない人が増え、新聞やTVが中心だったニュースの発信元はインターネットにシフトしつつあるようにも感じられます。 そのような中、これまでと同様の形で全家庭をまわり視聴料金を徴収するNHKの方法は時代にそぐわなくなってきているのかもしれません。また、TVはあってもほとんど見ない、NHKは全く見ていないという人にとっては料金を何とか抑えたいというのも本音でしょう。 インターネットに囲まれ、衛星TVチャンネルも増えて情報入手先の選択肢が増えた視聴者に訴え出る何かがなければ、積極的な料金の支払いは期待できません。

公共放送としてのNHKに私たちは何を望み、NHKはどのような機能を果たすべきでしょうか。

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