The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a bill Tuesday to revise the broadcast law to allow NHK to start simultaneous online streaming of its television programs.
“We would like to meet public demand for the ability to watch programs on their smartphones,” communications minister Masatoshi Ishida said.
The bill is expected to be enacted during the current Diet session. NHK aims to start the service in fiscal 2019, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Under the current law, NHK’s simultaneous streaming is limited to disaster and live sports coverage, since expansion of its services could have an impact on private TV networks.
Anyone who installs a TV receiver capable of receiving NHK programs is obliged to sign a subscription contract with the broadcaster under the law. Those who have contracts with NHK are expected to be able to watch programs online without extra fees.
NHK plans to maintain the current cost of subscriptions in October when the consumption tax is raised to 10 percent from the current 8 percent and reduce it in October 2020 by 2.5 percent of its subscription contract income.
The bill would make it mandatory for NHK to disclose the costs of online distribution to strengthen its disclosure policy, as some worry that the simultaneous online streaming would boost NHK’s dominance.
It would also give authority to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry to oversee distribution operations.
In exchange for granting permission for online streaming, a communications ministry panel that oversaw discussions on the new rules had also stressed that NHK should be more careful about preventing misconduct.
The bill will also stipulate measures to improve corporate governance as requested by the government panel.