Japan Says "No" to NHK
Tuesday, March 15, 2005 Posted: 04:10 PM JST
Japanese are fed up with the scandals at national broadcaster NHK, a top executive of the company told a Diet meeting today. Japanese households are obligated to pay the broadcaster a viewer fee of about 24,000 yen (USD 229) a year. But an increasing number of Japanese households refuse to pay. Their number could reach 700,000 by the end of this month, NHK disclosed today. NHK President Genichi Hashimoto said that the broadcaster's social standing has hit rock bottom.
The number of households who refused to pay the NHK fee reached 397,000 by the end of January. NHK officials believed it would reach 450,000 to 500,000 by the end of March. But yesterday the broadcaster disclosed that by the end of February already some 560,000 households had withheld payment.
Under Japan's Broadcast Law, every household in Japan with a television set must pay the viewer fee. The law however contains no penalties against those not paying the fee, making refusal to pay the easiest way for Japanese viewers to display their discontent with the broadcaster.
In January NHK President Katsuji Ebisawa resigned to take responsibility for a series of embezzlement scandals. The series of scandals erupted last year July. NHK at that time disclosed that former NHK chief producer Katsumi Isono had embbezzeld large amounts of NHK program production funds. The broadcaster later put the embezzled amount at 48 million yen. Both Isono and another company executive were arrested. Later several other staff members were also found to have engaged in embezzlement, irregular accounting practices and fictitious business trips.
Ebisawa had vowed he'd stay on to resolve the crisis. His failure to take responsibility for the problems infuriated many Japanese who resent having to pay the high fees when NHK appears to squander their money. Their anger only increased after it was announced that Ebisawa assumed the post of advisor after his resignation. He soon was forced to resign however due to enormous pressure from angry viewers.
With 700,000 households refusing to pay NHK risks loosing 16.8 billion yen (USD 160 million) in lost viewer fees. Last year revenue from viewer fees dropped by over 7 billion yen due to the refusal of many Japanese to pay up. NHK is now forced to dramatically tighten its belt, which will invariably influence the quality of its programming.
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