Demanding the immediate resignation of controversial NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii, a group of citizens launched a campaign Thursday calling for viewers to stop paying the NHK subscription fee.

The group, called NHK wo Kanshi Gekirei Suru Shichosha Community (roughly, a Viewers’ Community to Monitor and Encourage NHK), said in a statement that it kicked off the six-month campaign because Momii, whose contentious remarks on wartime history angered the public and Japan’s neighbors since he assumed the top post in January, refuses to step down. It was not immediately clear where the group was based or how big it is.

The group warned NHK that if Momii does not resign by the end of April, its members would freeze their payments for six months.

“Mr. Momii’s behavior has been unacceptable as NHK chairman ever since he made a number of insulting remarks at his inaugural press conference. If he stays in his post, it will do NHK no good,” the statement said.

The group, co-headed by Satoshi Daigo, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, said its members cannot trust Momii because he does not seem to understand the editorial principle of independence traditionally held by the public broadcaster.

Another citizens’ group NHK Mondai wo Kangaeru Kai (roughly, Group to Examine Problems Related to NHK), based in Hyogo Prefecture with about 900 members, has joined forces with it. Miyuki Nishikawa, a group member, told The Japan Times that, while it is unclear how many members have halted payment, they are ready to pay only if Momii quits.

“It’s not that we don’t want to pay. We do want to pay but we can’t this time. We can’t pay NHK while Momii, who makes NHK worse, is in charge,” she said, adding that the group wants to make NHK better.

NHK told The Japan Times in a statement that people who own devices that allow them to watch NHK must pay the subscription fee under the Broadcast Law.

“If more viewers say they don’t want to pay the fee anymore as a result of this (campaign), we will courteously and carefully explain to them and gain their understanding on why the subscription fee needs to be paid,” it said.

Momii has been under fire since appearing to justify the use of the “comfort women” who were forced to provide sex for Japanese troops at military brothels before and during the war, and stating NHK needs to back the government’s political views when it comes to international broadcasting.

“When the government is saying, ‘Right,’ we can’t say, ‘Left.’ International broadcasting has such a (propagandist) nuance” and NHK’s programming “shouldn’t be far removed from (the stance of) the Japanese government,” Momii said at his inaugural news conference on Jan. 25.

Momii also said sex slaves existed in “every country” during the war and that it is only considered wrong based on “today’s morality.”

Momii has repeatedly apologized in the Diet and recently on NHK, but he doesn’t seem to be gaining much sympathy. NHK said it has received 40,800 responses from viewers and 65 percent of them are critical of the former trading house executive.

The Broadcast Law states that everyone who owns a TV must pay reception fees regardless of whether they actually watch NHK programs. The law even covers people who have access to TV through a one-seg function, such as through cellular phones, according to NHK. The NHK viewer fees range from ¥2,520 to ¥4,560 for every two months per household.

Information from Kyodo added

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