The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry slapped NHK on the wrist Thursday after belatedly learning that an employee, now deceased, embezzled several hundred thousand yen from the public broadcaster.

The ministry demanded that NHK report how the misdeed was carried out and outline steps to prevent similar crimes that could damage the public's already strained trust.

Communications minister Sanae Takaichi handed a written reprimand to NHK Vice Chairman Hikaru Domoto on Thursday that basically said the crime was regrettable.

According to NHK, the employee, who was in his 40s and in charge of sales, falsified bills in 2015 and 2016 ostensibly to return fees to subscribers who had removed their TV sets from their homes. NHK paid him tens of thousand yen each time based on the bills, but he pocketed the money for himself.

After NHK conducted a hearing with the employee last October, he died. NHK did not disclose the cause of death.

The reprimand was the first since April 2015, when the broadcaster cooked up an interview in "Close-up Gendai," one of its flagship news programs. NHK was told to boost efforts against wrongdoing after the incident.