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Top court sides with NHK over TV fees

Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a provision of the Broadcast Law requiring television set owners to sign subscription contracts with NHK is constitutional.

It is the first time that the top court has made a judgment on the constitutionality of the law provision.

The court’s Grand Bench, led by Chief Justice Itsuro Terada, also ruled that owners of TV sets have an obligation to pay the fees retroactively from the point they installed the TV program receivers.

The fee system is a reasonable mechanism that helps the Japanese people exercise the constitutional right to know and the law provision does not violate the supreme law because it is designed to make fee collection appropriate and fair and is necessary, the Grand Bench said. Of the 15 justices, 14 concurred with the view.

The ruling is likely to support NHK’s plans to collect money from more than nine million households nationwide that are not paying their fees.

The broadcaster filed the lawsuit in 2011 against a man in Tokyo who installed a television set at home in 2006, accusing him of refusing to sign a viewing contract with NHK.

The key issue of the suit was whether the law provision is constitutional. It was the first time since NHK was established in 1950 that the constitutionality of the provision was disputed in court.

In the lawsuit, the defendant side claimed that subscription contracts with NHK should be concluded based on the TV program viewer’s intentions and, therefore, the mandatory rule violates the freedom of contract guaranteed by the Constitution.

NHK argued that the fee system has sufficient rationality and needs to exist.

The lower court rulings by the Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court declared that the rule of the law is constitutional, indicating that it conforms with the public welfare, and fined the man ¥200,000.

The Supreme Court upheld the lower courts’ rulings.Speech

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