Management reforms bring profit to NHK

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Beset by bad news for the past three years both financially and in terms of its image, Japan's national television broadcaster can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Japan Broadcasting Corp., known by its Japanese acronym NHK, on Wednesday reported an increase in revenue and profit for fiscal-year 2006 thanks largely to the corporation coming to grips with the problem of viewers refusing to pay license fees. Angered by a series of scandals at NHK, more than 2.9 million households refused to cough up the ¥1,345 ($11) monthly fee.

Revenue — of which 95% came from subscription fees — rose by ¥8.8 billion ($72.7 million) for the year ending March 31 to ¥643.2 billion ($5.3 billion), with profit up ¥22.8 billion ($188.4 million) to ¥23.4 billion ($193.4 million).

"NHK has been moving forward with a variety of management reforms, such as streamlining of the organization and promotion of the thorough implementation of fairly sharing the license fee among viewers," the company said. "We believe these figures reflect those efforts and achievements." It added it will "accelerate the reforms and strive to regain the public's trust."

NHK's license fee revenue rose for the first time in three years, climbing ¥11.4 billion ($94.2 million) to ¥613.8 billion ($5.1 billion).

The corporation has embarked on a major campaign to encourage people to pay their fees, backing up personal visits to the homes of people whose payments are overdue with legal action. Anyone with a TV is obliged to pay, but there is no penalty for nonpayment, though that loophole is about to be closed by the government.

NHK has been so hard hit by the refusal of so many people to pay their fees that it has announced plans to slash its work force by 10% and has implemented cost-cutting measures.
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