Gov't committee rejects NHK business plan

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TOKYO -- Japan Broadcasting Corp.'s (NHK) business plan was rejected by the government-appointed overseeing body for the first time in the public broadcaster's history, forcing it to propose an even larger cut in viewer fees.

The 12-member NHK Management Committee, chaired by Fujifilm Holdings Corp. president Shigetaka Komori, refused to approve the corporation's current business plan, at the heart of which is a cut in the viewer's fees of ¥50-¥100.

All households that own a TV set in Japan are required to pay the monthly dues of ¥1,345 ($11), though there are no legal penalties for those who don't. Nonpayment rates have risen in recent years following financial scandals at NHK.

Despite this, the broadcaster made profits of ¥23.4 billion last year and was criticized in Japan's parliament this month (HR 9/14) for ¥88.6 billion surpluses earned by its affiliates over the same period. This has strengthened calls that were already being made by government ministers for a substantial cut in fees.

The rejection of the plan means NHK will be expected to resubmit its proposals including a larger fee reduction, with 20% favored by the Communications Ministry.

However, the result may be a delay in any fee cut for the public. NHK had proposed reducing fees from October 2008. But it now has until September 2008 to resubmit its plans, meaning any cut would be implemented starting in April 2009.

"This is the first time the management committee has rejected the business plan since NHK started. Our president (Genichi Hashimoto) is going to hold a press conference on Friday to set out our response," NHK spokesperson Naoko Sakamoto said in a phone interview.
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