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Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007

LIFELINES

NHK: To pay or not to pay?


Mrs. P has stopped paying her fees to national broadcaster NHK.

"I am at my wit's end. I have been staying in this particular building for the last six years now. I have actually paid regularly the last six years to the NHK person who comes to collect the fees.

"Actually I am a joke among my friends and neighbors for having paid the NHK fees, the sad thing being I don't even watch NHK or the Japanese channels as I don't understand much Japanese.

"From this March I stopped paying. I told the person that once he shows me the bills of my neighbors (most of them being Japanese), who all have TVs in their houses, I would pay. He refused to and just told me that he collects from all.

"I do know that I am the only nut who has been paying him. My Japanese neighbors themselves have told me that none of them pay. They just tell the man they have no TV in their house or just shout at him or ignore him.

"This person did come twice more to collect the fees and I refused to pay him. Now I am being sent bills regularly by the NHK center. The bill is now ¥8,370 from April to September. My neighbors have told me to just ignore it. I am so unsure of what has to be done. I did read that the NHK would take legal action on people not paying the fees."

To answer your question, we checked with NHK directly.

"If you are in Japan you are expected to pay the monthly NHK fee," they said. "If you are out of the country you can deduct the months you are outside."

Regarding whether there is a penalty for nonpayment, "There is no penalty for not paying your NHK fee," they said.

In response to our question about having to pay if you do not watch NHK, the reply was: "Even if you do not watch NHK, if your TV can receive NHK you are requiredto pay."

This is a tough call for us, as always. In a nutshell, if you have a TV that can receive NHK you are required by law to pay the monthly NHK charge. At the same time, if you do not pay there is no penalty, legal or otherwise, for not paying — yet.

Under the "Hoso Ho" (Broadcasting Act), residents of Japan who own a TV are obliged to pay a fee of approximately ¥1,345 per month (discounted to ¥14,910 per year) for color TV, and ¥2,290 per month (discounted to ¥25,520 a year) for satellite broadcasts. (Prices quoted include 5 percent consumption tax.)

However, the act does not stipulate any punishment for failure of payment. There are currently hundreds of thousands of households nationwide that are refusing to pay their NHK fees, and the government is considering a tougher approach for extracting payment, including prosecution and demand of back-payment.

For more information, check out www.nhk.or.jp or call (03) 3465 -1111.

Ken Joseph Jr. directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com or on (03) 000-911. Send questions, queries, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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