Japan Today

Don’t own a TV? NHK doesn’t care, but still wants your money

By Casey Baseel

Paying taxes works a little differently in Japan. Often, large companies will simply deduct the required income tax from employees’ paychecks, and even file the necessary paperwork for them. On the other hand, workers have their earnings taxed twice, with residency taxes which are based on their income from the previous year and must be paid quarterly. Like most things in Japan, resident taxes can be paid with a fat wad of cash at the convenience store.

But perhaps the weirdest of all are government fees for public television in Japan. Not only do the bill collectors go door to door soliciting payment, but some administrators are looking to make people pay the fees whether they own a TV or not.

Public television in Japan is administered by the broadcasting organization NHK. The quirkiness of NHK fees doesn’t stop with the legion of elderly bill collectors it dispatches to knock on citizens’ doors to collect annual fees, which are 13,600 yen, or 24,090 yen for owners of satellite TVs. Despite their widespread unpopularity, though, the law states no penalties for non-payment.

Japan, like most prosperous nations, has seen TV viewership steadily drop as people turn increasingly to the Internet for their news and information. Many of the younger generation are finding they can make do without owning a television, and the easiest way to shoo away a fee collector for NHK is by simply saying, “Sorry, I don’t have a TV,” as you give a half bow and gently close the door.

However, since the bill collectors lack the jurisdiction to barge into homes to verify this, even people who have multiple 40-inch TVs hanging on their walls often claim not to own a set.

Nationwide, NHK’s says that only 73% of households pay the fees, with the lowest collection rates coming from urban centers such as Tokyo and Osaka, with a meager 60 percent.

NHK’s executive committee has floated a number of ideas on how to address this, including bringing legal action against households that have failed to pay. Recently leaked internal documents show another method the broadcaster is considering: petitioning to make payment of NHK fees mandatory even for households without a television set.

Although the proposed measure seems draconian at first, NHK isn’t entirely without justification. In recent years the organization has attempted to adapt to modern media trends by streaming more and more of its content on the Internet. NHK’s executive committee feels that differentiating between the fiscal responsibilities of those who watch its programs on a TV and those who watch on a PC would be both imprecise and impractical. Everyone equally sharing the burden, regardless of what sort of equipment they’re using, seems the fairest system to NHK.

Nevertheless, the plan isn’t sitting well with Internet commentators, with one angry individual asking NHK to at least give people the option of blocking the broadcaster’s signal before insisting that they pay for it.

At the moment, the idea of charging NHK fees to people without a TV is nothing more than that: an idea. NHK itself has declined to comment on the matter or the leaked internal document that brought it to the public’s attention.

Sources: Jin, Yahoo! Japan News

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Court ruling orders anyone with TV-equipped device to pay NHK fee -- NHK gets weather reports backwards -- 7 Services That Don’t Make Sense to Foreigners in Japan

© RocketNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

What a bunch of BS! I own a TV but have never watched NHK. I own a smartphone but never watch TV on it. Why the hell should I pay for something I don't use?! Isn't NHK owned by the government? It's their nasty way of collecting more of our money to use on who knows what!

I agree with the paragraph about Internet commentators being angry and asking for an option to block the NHK signal. This should be an option.

NHK should not be mandatory!!

14 ( +17 / -3 )

You are going against the recent enact Slimmey Law, you will go staright to Jail, do not pass GO if you don't pay up. :)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

NHK can kiss my axe.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

NHK should start getting income from commercials, I love watching the commercials, its fun. Thats what TV should do right? to entertain while getting information across.

The unfair forever requesting for money till one dies should be stopped

1 ( +4 / -3 )


-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Recently leaked internal documents = some low-level employee's doodling on a notepad. Must be a really slow news day today.

NHK should start getting income from commercials, I love watching the commercials

I hate watching commercials apart from the white dog. When I watch a programme on a channel that isn't NHK I pre-record it and skip over the stupid commercials.

You do realise that all those commercials are paid for by upping the price of the product? Which means if you go shopping, you pay the price whether or not you watch the telly. At least NHK is honest and up front about it.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

If you think about it, this really isn't all that uncommon. In the US, public broadcasting like PBS and NPR is subsidized by the govt with tax dollars as well as donations. Everyone pays even if they don't watch. What's strange in this case is the system of going door to door to collect fees. If NHK is public broadcasting, should'nt they be funded by govt subsidies?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I think NHK provide good TV program. I often watch news and quiz show. I'm sure NHK don't have sponsor so they need to collect money but they too rude. I heard they visit citizen's home like debt collector again and again until we pay fee. Also they try to collect money from people who don't watch NHK. It not fair!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Someone really didn't do their homework when writing this article. The law doesn't state that owning a televsion set is a prerequist for paying the fee. It simply states 'receiving equipment'.

ARTICLE 64. Any person who has installed receiving equipment capable of receiving the broadcasting provided by NHK shall conclude a contract with NHK with regard to the reception of its broadcasting. However, this shall not apply to those who have installed receiving equipment not intended for the reception of broadcasting, or receiving equipment solely for the reception of radio broadcasting or multiplex broadcasting (broadcasting of voice and other sound transmissions not coming under television broadcasting and multiplex broadcasting classifications; the same shall apply to Article 126 paragraph 1).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The really amusing thing is, there is no penalty for not paying, so why would you? Also, when you think about how much it must cost NHK to employ all those annoying collectors a large part of the fee would be taken up by paying their salaries. They came to my place the day after I moved in two years ago. I played dumb gaijin and told them I had no idea what they were talking about. Two days later and English speaking leech showed up. I just flatly refused to pay on the grounds of not ever watching TV at all. He left quite disappointed and that was the last I ever heard from them. Just don't pay it! They can't do anything about it.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

@ Disillusioned - I found that answering the door, shirtless, whilst holding a kitchen knife (during chopping veges of course ) seems to turn these NHK hard guys into an apologetic mess. They've never been back.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

The really amusing thing is, there is no penalty for not paying, so why would you?

I guess you're the kind of person that goes to the British Museum or any of the other excellent public centres of learning in the UK and walks right past the donation collection points chuckling or even roaring with laughter, because there's no penalty for paying, so why should you? Hilarious.

You use something, you pay for it. Some things, like taxes and NHK, you pay regardless.

how much it must cost NHK to employ all those annoying collectors

If your objection to paying the license fee is that you begrudge a few pennies of it going to a pensioner, you can always opt to pay through your bank account - 2 months, 6 months or 12 months. The more you pay, the cheaper it is.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

I own a rather small TV, and use it only for watching DVDs that are not zone 2 and that I can't play on my computer. It is not even hooked up to cable, and I haven't watched Japanese TV for years (save for when visiting people and we watch it together).

I will not ever, EVER pay NHK. Not only does the programming suck, the scandals are far too often, and too big. I once asked an NHK man who knocked at my door why I should pay money to retired NHK execs engaged in scandal and the guy bit his lip before calling me a 'criminal'. Haven't seen him since I slammed the door.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

I have a TV but dont use it for watching Japanese TV so dont see why I should pay. Japnese TV is absolutely aweful. Inane, boring, repetitive, stupid. I wouldnt watch it even if it was free.

Try and watch Japanese Tv for one night and not see some dead eyed celebrity over exaggerate how delicious some udon is... It is the same thing on every damned channel...

13 ( +17 / -4 )

i have no problem in paying for quality services that I actually use. Japanese TV shows, however, aren't one of them.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

have no ariel on the roof

I would hope not. It can be dangerous up there.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The differences between taxes and NHK is that politicians can be voted out of office. Can we vote NHK executives out of office? Do we have any voice on what we can watch?

Also, have you ever seen the NHK offices in Nagoya or Osaka? Huge grandiose building on prime property. I haven't seen the Tokyo office, but I am sure it is much the same.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I'd rather fund a homeless person's drug addiction than put money towards what passes for TV here. What would happen if everybody refused? No more TV?

Bring it on, I say!

Note: I have no problem paying for Hulu each month, because I choose what I want to watch, without ads. Wish they would get up to date with Breaking Bad though :(

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I refuse to pay for NHK simply because I don't watch it. And, because there is no penalty there is no reason to pay!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I am generally do not watch TV. NHK man came to our apartment when only child was at home. Child was in Japan for first days and spoke no Japanese at all. NHK man made criminal offense by letting my child to sign contract for me. Now NHK forces me to prove that I have no device capable of seeing TV. Today they called again and asked about exact type of phones I have. I have iPhones and unless you have 10yo Nokia any phone is capable to see NHK because they made app for that. If you have any Android or iPhone, you need to pay. Making criminal act - no problem if NHK does this and I am just gaijin.

5 ( +5 / -0 )


You don't seem to understand that some people don't watch NHK at all. If you think I should be paying for you to watch NHK, then surely you should be helping me pay for my J-Sports subscription?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I didn't bother buying a digital TV or a tuner after the switch to digital. I paid the fee up to that time and told NHK the situation and they haven't bothered me since. There is no way people should have to pay for something they don't or cannot watch. If they do knock on my door asking for payment again, I'm sure my wife will hand out the type of welcome she usually reserves for Jehovah's Witnesses.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why not make it more reasonable like, ¥500/month? I would pay that. I have to confess the only time I`ve paid was when I was a JET many years ago and my employer, the local board of education, paid it for me (along with all my other bills).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Next thing we hear will be YouTube wants to charge everyone a fee whether they own a computer or smartphone or not, lol.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

zichi: "But there are many instances why we have to pay for what we don't use. We don't have school children but part of our taxes are used for schools."

The difference being education is supposedly a good thing, as are the police, the postal service, etc. NHK? What do they provide, seriously, aside from scandal?

"@smithinjapan Next time you buy a new DVD player for your computer, the first time you use it put in a Region 1 DVD and it will set it to that region. You can change the region five times."

Thanks. Actually, the DVD player in my computer is already set on its last change, and I kept that to 2 because, well, here I am in Japan. The sole reason I bought and own a TV is for the region free player and blue ray.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

One of the collectors came to our door a couple of years back. We told him we were busy - and we were since our child was having a bath and wasn't in the best of moods. My wife told him in the nicest of ways that we couldn't come to the door via intercom at the front door. But he just stood there without leaving. I went about 5 minutes later to tell him that we were busy and that we didn't have time to talk with him. As soon as I opened the door he went into a frenzy asking why we didn't pay - in about 3 different ways. I calmly told him again, that sorry, we are busy at the moment (and he could hear our child crying in the background). As I was closing the door, he grabbed it and yanked it open, putting his foot and leg in the door. That made me snap, and I shoved him out of our front door. He made a move to open the door again, all the while asking why we weren't paying. I said in Japanese through gritted teeth: "Try opening the door again...one...more...time." Needless to say, he left. And we haven't had an NHK person come to the door in years.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Also, have you ever seen the NHK offices in Nagoya or Osaka? Huge grandiose building on prime property. I haven't seen the Tokyo office, but I am sure it is much the same.

It's not just Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. They have a pretty sizable building right in the middle of Kagoshima City as well, so I'd imagine it's the same in every prefecture. The BBC gets by with offices for about seven different regions, which they are probably paying an awful lot less on the upkeep for.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Add commercials NHK, problem solved.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nhk fees are part of a tax system, and as such, should be deducted at source along with income tax.

The point is that every country needs non-commercial broadcasting to ensure some kind of ballance. There is less pressure on non-commercial channels to pander to the baser human desires, enabling them to provide more programming that enriches the mind.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

They came to my place the day after I moved in two years ago. I played dumb gaijin and told them I had no idea what they were talking about. Two days later and English speaking leech showed up.

That's when you pull out your pig Latin.

As I was closing the door, he grabbed it and yanked it open, putting his foot and leg in the door. That made me snap, and I shoved him out of our front door. He made a move to open the door again, all the while asking why we weren't paying. I said in Japanese through gritted teeth: "Try opening the door again...one...more...time." Needless to say, he left. And we haven't had an NHK person come to the door in years.

I'd like to see a campaign of people calling the cops on strangers like this. It would certainly slow them down having to deal with the j-satsu multiple times a day.

I own a TV to use as a computer screen. If there were a way to disable NHK on the telly, I'd do it in a flash.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

what a bunch of whingeing foreigners. nhk programming is actually much better than the private broadcast companies' programming. although that's not saying much, at least there are a variety of learning programs and the news at night is bilingual. there's "decent" programming if you look for it, and not the dribble that you see every night of people eating food on regular tv. consider it a donation for the tens of thousands of young and old people that enjoy and rely on it. and if you don't feel like donating, then there's no need to criticize it. geez.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Haven't paid NHK a penny for many years. The bully boys have come to my door, but I refuse them, because I never watch NHK on principle. They have the most boring News and the most boring Newsreaders on the planet, its all government and scientific propaganda and I am not going to give my hard earned cash to this discrdited organisation. Actually, there is hardly anything worth watching on anyJapanese TV channel. During the years i have lived here, Japanese TV has sunk to new depths with each passing year. Back in the 1980s it was great, and I enjoyed it, but not anymore. Same old, same old. Boring.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

rnauser: "We have had this for many years in Sweden"

But do you watch it?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

'smithinjapan' - you sound English. If you didn't pay your license fee in the UK you'd end up in court. There is a precedent for this. If you own a TV 'capable' of receiving a broadcast, you pay. Happy to pay NHK, I enjoy their excellent news coverage (especially after the earthquake), which wasn't foreign propaganda to try and cause further panic. Furthermore their sports coverage is quite excellent.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

It's interesting to read all the comments about refusing to pay because NHK programming is crap. If you bothered to read to read the article correctly or do some research on the subject , the system is very close to the British one . Everybody who is capable of receiving the NHK broadcast is liable to pay. This tax covers the operation of NHK and various other services. Back when this law was enacted, NHK was the only broadcaster .

3 ( +5 / -2 )

But do you watch it?

Does it matter? There are loads of things you pay for with taxes that you probably never use. Public roads, gyms, community and cultural centres, etc...

I know I'm going to sound like an NHK fanboy (I'm not!!) but the apps for NHK world news are pretty informative and useful actually.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Does it matter?

Yes, a question of principles. If it's "NHK fee", I won't pay one yen because I don't watch.

There are loads of things you pay for with taxes that you probably never use.

I kind of agree. But then include it in general taxes, say it's the governmental media (it is, no ?) and stop the collecting circus. Some people are under the income level to pay any tax, they wouldn't have to pay the official propaganda channel.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

This article made me think of Murakami's 1Q84 book. Reading the book gave me the idea he profoundly dislikes NHK collectors.

Anyway, we also pay a similar fee here in Portugal. The difference is that since it's included in our water bill (weird, I know) most people don't even know they pay it. Plus, it's a really small value so even if it doesn't make much sense (I shouldn't have to pay for something I don't watch and isn't really necessary) it doesn't really bother me. I must say though, that I'd hate having people bother me at home for something like that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

After my mom moved to the US from Japan, she always kept in touch with the current events in Japan by subscribing to a Japanese newspaper and also listening to Japanese broadcasts on shortwave radio. When TVJapan, which carries a lot of NHK programming, became available from our satellite TV provider, I subscribed to it for her. Do you know what her first question to me was after I told her she can now watch NHK programs on her TV? She asked if NK was going to come knocking on our door to ask for payment. I was puzzled as to why she asked me that but I now fully understand where she was coming from with that question. LOL

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Athens old-timers trying to claw onto a dying industry. The sooner free-to-air disappears, the better.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I can understand paying for TV, but if you don't actually own a TV then thats just stupid. Also, like many users said, we should have an option to disable NHK stations.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If NHK provided the same level of service as say the BBC in the UK did, perhaps they could justify a licence fee. The BBC provided an excellent range of news, sport and drama and documentaries, on demand content and other integrated digital services. I wouldn't mind paying a british broadcasting fee, you get a great service. NHK is pitiful, their website is hopeless, on demand content? and a wide variety of content? pfft.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The quality of NHK programs is not the issue. It doesn't matter whether it is informative or not. What matters is whether we watch it or not.

Don't they have BS-NHK where users have the option to pay to watch (like Wowow)? They should make all NHK channels like this. Give the users the option to pay to watch.

0 ( +2 / -1 )

The door to door agents are not NHK employees, they are paid on comission based on how much they manage to harangue people into paying, which explains (but certainly doesn't justify) the aggressive tactics.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Only in Japan *or maybe north korea also, can you be made to pay for your own brainwashing.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

This whole system is just weird. Sending poor people into the night to knock on doors and try and collect tv money. Messes with my WA man, and I will never pay it, never. The government should just use funds raised by the usual taxes we pay and pass them onto NHK directly. End of story. Too simple for Japan though no doubt.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Only in Japan *or maybe north korea also, can you be made to pay for your own brainwashing.

They all learned how to do it from the BBC. The BBC's flagship drama Eastenders is used to tell the plebs what to think about everything from immigration to austerity to the Queen's birthday.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Why answer the door? I never answer the door. Lets face it; unless you are expecting friends/relatives there is no need to answer. Unexpected visitors are more often than not either sales people or religious entities trying to sell their religion. NHK can be considered a cult perhaps. Treat it like SPAM, ignore and it and it will disappear. If its a friend, theyll call. If its the mailman with a large package, they leave a note with which you can call and get it re-delivered with times you specify.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Hmm, in this Japan imitates Britain, but in everything else copies America. Curious

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

You can thank the UK's BBC for NHK. The BBC was used as a model for a supposedly totally independent broadcaster, free from commercial or political interests. I believe British citizens must pay the BBC "licence fee" (about 150 pounds or 25,000 yen a year?) or face fines and imprisonment! However, the general dross shown on NHK cannot be compared to the service BBC provides (about 6 TV channels and 6 radio channels). BTW, the excellent BBC radio channels are available free on the internet.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I like NHK's TV programs. I think they are interesting and convenient. I always check typhoon information by watching TV program of NHK. But I think that people who don't have a TV need not pay NHK fees, because they don't watch NHK. It doesn't make any sense. I have heard that there are many people who don't pay fees, though they watch NHK. I think NHK should collect a bill from that people. Otherwise they should block the broadcaster's signal.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Simple. Don't answer the door for anyone ya don't know! Its always about money! Besides the last NHK boss put a whole lot of money in his pocket so shove it!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Some people have a TV, or more than one, but claim never to watch Japanese TV. Hence refuse to pay NHK. Won't argue with that. There are those who refuse to pay the fees because they dislike the programming, same folks as the former group or a different one. There are those who claim not to own a TV when a fee collector shows up. These may belong to group 1 or 2 or both. It's a free country, as far as stating one's opinion. Dodging one's obligations is a different matter. Here there is no freedom of choice. One pays taxes, everyone does, in one form or another. You don't like the services the city or your town provides and then decide not to pay city/prefectural taxes? I don't think so. You have a (registered) car, but don't drive it, so you don't pay automobile taxes or liability insurance. Actually I think some don't. That falls into the category of dodging one's obligations. May fall in some other categories as well. Tax evasion is a serious offense.

NHK is authorized by law to collect fees from TV owners. Not complying with this law is civil disobedience, I don't see how anyone can be proud of that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Are you all not missing the point? Since when TV is something that can be imposed on people?. The article above mention taxes which are within the scope of the law VS a volunteer payment that was agreed by some people nearly 2 generations earlier. There's no Law no contract and democratically speaking, are we saying that people have no choices and must give up viewing videos, playing games or contracting with cable companies they agree to pay and view just because of NHK, In addition in this country you can't even apply for a loan if you can't read the contract but if you don't care about NHK programing or understand it, you are obliged to pay?? and if you don't they will engage in Ganster like tactics prosecution.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites