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The Tokyo District Court ruled Friday that a plaintiff whose television set has been altered to not receive signals from NHK does not bear a duty to sign a viewing contract with the public broadcaster.

The TV is equipped with a filtering device that significantly weakens its reception of signals from NHK.

It is the first time NHK has lost a suit in which a plaintiff with a TV equipped to block its signals sought judgement nullifying any obligation to conclude a viewing contract with it. NHK previously won three such cases, and the plaintiff withdrew the petition in a different case, according to the public broadcaster.

According to Friday’s verdict, the plaintiff, a woman in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward who is critical of NHK’s forceful collection of viewing fees learned that an associate professor at the University of Tsukuba was developing a filtering device that weakens only signals from NHK. She contacted the associate professor and reportedly bought a used TV equipped with the filter from a nonprofit organization headed by the teacher for ¥3,000 in October 2018, setting it up at her home.

NHK argued in the suit that TV sets are designed with functions to receive its signals even if the filter is installed, and that it would be easy to revive that function. It therefore argued the woman bears a duty to sign a viewing contract with it.

Judge Ritsuko Ogawa, who presided over the case, rejected NHK’s claim, saying that the woman’s TV “cannot be said to be able to receive NHK broadcasts” and that it would be difficult to revive that function.

“It cannot be recognized that the plaintiff bears the duty of signing a viewing contract with NHK,” Ogawa concluded.

An public relations official for NHK said it will examine the verdict carefully and consider its future actions.

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