Home > Focus on Japan 2007 > NHK = RIAA?


January 27th, 2007

NHK has always been a pain in the butt. I know that a lot of people like it, but personally, I do not. As for the translated English-language news, I can get far better from the Internet. As for their documentaries, National Geographic, Discovery, and Animal Planet on cable offer far better–and on NHK, all too often, they have all too often actually blacked out the English-language track on English-language programming. And in the past, I have noted a distinct political tilt to their news broadcasting. I got tired of them long ago, and haven’t watched them for a decade or more; were they to vanish, I would not even notice.

Except, of course, for the fee collectors. Like England, the public broadcasting in Japan is partly financed by fees collected from the people–whether they like it or not. Fortunately, while the fees are mandated by law, there is no penalty for not paying them. Foreign residents have traditionally avoided paying them, as have a very large number of Japanese as well–and for Japanese to refuse to pay fees when a government official comes to the door and strongly demands it, well, that’s saying something. As for myself, I last staved off the fee collector by pointing to my satellite dish and making it clear that I did not want NHK by any means or measure–and challenged them to cut off my NHK “service.” Please.

It got worse a few years back when embezzlement scandals within NHK caused public disgust, and more than a million households that had been paying fees stopped doing so.

So, what is NHK’s response? Are they working hard to improve programming or finding other ways to restore public trust?

Of course not. They’re suing the people who stopped paying.

That’s right. Taking a page right out of the RIAA playbook, they randomly chose 33 households that stopped paying fees, and are suing them for amounts ranging from $339 to $885. Now, admittedly that’s not too much like the RIAA in that they are not absurdly exaggerating the amount owed, but in Japan, any kind of lawsuit in court is considered a big thing. Japanese people are not nearly as litigious as Americans, and civil suits are famous for being lowballed.

The greatest similarity with the RIAA lies with the fact that, having lost the trust of the people who no longer pay, instead of leveling out and flying right, they are taking random people to court so as to scare all the others into line.

Good to see that they’re on the right track.

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