Terrie's Take 862 - Why NHK Can't Force You to Pay Their Annual Fees, e-biz news from Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Aug 28 22:38:41 JST 2016

* * * * * * * * TERRIE'S TAKE - BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term 
technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan. 

General Edition Sunday, August 28, 2016, Issue No. 862

- What's New -- Why NHK Can't Force You to Pay Their Annual Fees
- News -- Would you kill for instant ramen?
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Nara Real Fruit Ice cream, Awesome Odaiba Light Show
- News Credits

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If there is one government organ that pops up in our domestic lives at 
least once a year and which almost everyone has an opinion on, it's the 
national TV broadcaster NHK. Mostly the public regards NHK these days 
with disdain, and there are two good reasons why. Firstly, although 
originally established to be a politically neutral service established 
for the public good, it is nowadays overtly controlled by the ruling LDP 
and has become a mouthpiece for the government's own conservative 
political views. We will justify this statement below.

Secondly, the confrontational, almost Yakuza-like tactics of NHK's 
subcontracted subscription collection men, and their lawful right to 
force you to pay those subscriptions, even if you don't ever watch NHK.

So it was with some interest that we saw news on Friday that NHK has for 
the first time lost a law suit over its ability to enforce collection of 
its viewer fees. Specifically, the owner of a One Seg cell phone 
equipped with a public broadcast TV receiver, including the ability to 
receive NHK transmissions, took NHK to court in Saitama over NHK's 
insistence that he pay them the roughly JPY15,000 a year that NHK 
charges EVERY household possessing a television regardless of whether 
they watch NHK or not.

The case, heard in the Saitama District Court, revolved around a very 
narrow interpretation of Article 64 of the Japan Broadcast Law which 
requires all households, or if no household then individual owners, who 
have "installed" equipment to receive TV broadcasts to sign a contract 
with NHK and pay the required fees. The decision appears to have been 
made over the definition of the word "installed". The plaintiff said 
that he bought the cell phone with One Seg already there and that he 
didn't "install" it. The judge agreed and ruled in the gentleman's 
favor. This was a significant decision by that judge, since surely he 
would have realized that in doing so he was bucking the system - 
especially since until now NHK has never lost a case over suing people 
for not paying its fees. Needless to say, NHK is going to appeal the 
ruling, so a final decision by a higher court may take years.

The finding at the District Court level, though, is important, because 
it recognizes that a device that may have some primary purpose other 
than TV cannot become the arbitrary target of NHK rooting around for 
more fees. So, as TVs themselves become more primarily Internet devices, 
depending on what a higher court decides in the future, this could be 
the beginning of the end for NHK and its right to gouge fees from all TV 

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[...Article continues]

That said, and while the law is the law, it may surprise you to learn 
that unless you particularly want to support NHK there is no compelling 
reason to pay them anything at all. Yes, the law says that NHK has the 
right to receive fees from every TV owner/household, but it apparently 
does not include legal penalties as a means of enforcement. Instead, to 
make you subject to legal enforcement, NHK first has to jump a twilight 
zone hurdle, which is that they have to get you to sign a contract. 
Then, using that contract they will then have the leverage to sue you.

So to stay out of NHK's clutches the key is for you to sign nothing.

Unfortunately, getting you to sign that contract is what encourages 
NHK's fee collectors to engage in intimidating tactics. There are no end 
of social media stories about collectors arriving at residences as late 
as 22:00 in the evening, browbeating housewives and teenage kids, 
entering the dwelling uninvited, and generally being nasty. This type of 
approach by representatives of a state organ is really quite 
unacceptable, and significantly contributes to the negative feeling that 
people have about NHK.

Further, we have a moral problem paying fees of any type to NHK because 
of political manipulation of the broadcaster and the law which empowers 
it. Firstly, we have witnessed the loading up of NHK's board with 
conservatives and history revisionists close to PM Abe personally 
(Katsuhiko Honda for example was apparently Abe's elementary school 
teacher), and the appointment of conservative businessman Katsuto Momii 
as NHK's president. You'll remember him as being the guy who baldly 
stated in a public interview that NHK should not "...deviate from the 
government's position in its programming."

Then the Broadcast Law itself has been become a tool to bludgeon 
dissenting channels. Rumored threats to hurt NHK's for-profit 
competitors has led the senior management of those companies to 
undertake a number of high-profile firings or "coincidental departures" 
of popular but tough-on-the-government TV personalities -- such as 
Hiroko Kuniya of NHK's Close up Gendai, Ichiro Furutachi of TV Asahi's 
Hodo Station, and Shigetada Kishii of TBS's News 23. Indeed, government 
pressure on conventional media is now so bad that Japan's ranking in the 
Reporters Without Borders press freedom index has slipped from number 26 
in 2002 to 72 in 2016. In 71st position, above Japan, is Tanzania.

The press freedom organization makes this statement on its web site 

"Don't mess with state secrets

The Japanese media, which are among the most powerful in the world, are 
free to cover what they want except state secrets. This rather vague 
category is protected by a very harsh law that deters journalists from 
embarking on investigations. The Fukushima nuclear disaster, the 
Imperial family's personal lives and the defense of Japan are all 'state 
secrets'." [Ed: Fukushima is a state secret? If true, that's truly 

Anyway, enough of politics, back to the farce which is NHK fee policies 
and its ability to collect those fees from unwilling TV owners. The 
erudite Colin Jones at Doshisha had a great article recently regarding 
the judiciary's view of NHK's right and ability to force people into 
contracts. He says that in October 2013, NHK successfully sued in the 
Tokyo High Court to establish its right to unilaterally create a 
"contract" with you simply by giving you two week's notice from the date 
of their making a subscription offer. This is whether you agreed to that 
contract or not! As Jones says, the two weeks was an entirely arbitrary 
number plucked out of thin air by NHK and agreed to by the judges 
hearing the case.

However, Jones then goes on to quote another case just two months later, 
where the same court but different judges found that NHK could not 
unilaterally impose a contract, since there is no such power defined in 
the Broadcast Law, nor, for that matter, in NHK's own contracts. So now 
with that impasse NHK will no doubt appeal to the Supreme Court, which 
will need to decide which of the two findings should stand. If the 
Supreme Court decides to go ahead with increasing NHK's fee collection 
powers, it will in the process be destroying the foundation of civil 
contract law, which makes the assumption that since the fees are not a 
tax, both parties should have the right to agree to the terms before 
signing. That will be an interesting conundrum to pass judgement on...

In the meantime, of course, fewer and fewer people are watching TV 
anyway, and with the Abe government muzzling political dissent in 
conventional media, anyone wanting to know what others really think are 
already turning to the Internet for political news and discourse -- 
thereby rendering TV irrelevant. It amazes us that Abe and co., don't 
get this very obvious point. So unless they put something in our 
drinking water, the only way they will be able to control public opinion 
in the future will be to engage in massive online censorship, such as 
installing a Japanese version of the great Chinese firewall. However, 
given Japan's reliance on western trade and technology, we doubt we'll 
see this in our lifetimes at least.

...The information janitors/


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+++ NEWS

- Exciting new engine tech from Nissan
- Next effort to goose the stock market
- Would you kill for instant ramen?
- Short-sellers in Japan having some success
- Over-enthusiastic cop surveillance in Oita

=> Exciting new engine tech from Nissan

Nissan is getting ready to launch a new petrol-driven internal 
combustion engine that promises the performance of a 3.5 liter 6 
cylinder engine with a 4-cylinder powerplant of just 2 liters. As a 
result, the company will be able to offer an incredible 27% better fuel 
economy and a drastically downsized engine profile. The new engine 
varies cylinder displacement and thus compression ratio on the fly, 
providing a large gain in efficiency depending on load on the engine. 
***Ed: This is not a new technology, as Nissan filed a patent around the 
idea back in 2001, but it is good to see that the company hasn't put all 
its eggs in the electric vehicle basket - yet.** (Source: TT commentary 
from digitaltrends.com, Aug 15, 2015)


=> Next effort to goose the stock market

The Abe government has been doing all it can to push stock prices up so 
as to unleash "animal spirits" by retail investors - thereby drive an 
inflationary environment that they hope will spread to the rest of the 
economy. The goosing methods are many and varied, including flooding the 
stock markets with orders from ETFs receiving funds from the Bank of 
Japan; political directives to the world's largest pension fund, the 
GPIF, to buy a ton of local stocks instead of government bonds (which 
are being hoovered up by the BoJ); and having other government-related 
banks and organizations buy directly into leading stocks. As the next 
phase in the stimulation program, the government is going to lift a ban 
on margin trading on non-TSE trading platforms for retail investors, 
allowing them to buy on credit in evenings and on holidays. ***Ed: This 
is like handing out crack (cocaine) to drug addicts. While there are 
only two trading platforms today, SBI Japannext and Chi-X Japan, once 
this law passes in 2017 there will be dozens more.** (Source: TT 
commentary from nikkei.com, Aug 26, 2016)


=> Would you kill for instant ramen?

...Well you might if you're incarcerated in a US prison. This 
interesting read from the Washington Post says that instant ramen is 
replacing cigarettes as the underground currency in U.S. prisons. 
Apparently because prisons are now cutting food quality and quantity to 
keep costs down, hungry prisoners find that instant ramen fills the gap. 
It's cheap, tasty, easy to cook, and "surprisingly non-perishable". 
***Ed: Seems that the biggest challenge is getting hot water in the 
cells. ** (Source: TT commentary from washingtonpost.com, Aug 23, 2016)


=> Short-sellers in Japan having some success

Unlike the legal challenges that short-seller stock traders are 
experiencing in Hong Kong, their colleagues in Japan have successfully 
pushed down the shares of six different Japanese companies after 
releasing negative investment reports about those companies. The latest 
hit was on the shares of robotic limbs maker Cyberdyne, which fell by 7% 
after a Citron Research press release said Cyberdyne was misleading 
investors over technology assets. ***Ed: Perhaps this is a good example 
of how sometimes the Japanese have a much more laissez faire attitude to 
financial market behavior than elsewhere in Asia.** (Source: TT 
commentary from reuters.com, Aug 18, 2016)


=> Over-enthusiastic cop surveillance in Oita

A bit disturbing to learn that a police team in Beppu set up several 
surveillance cameras to monitor a building used by members of a 
political opposition party, the SDP, as well the Rengo trade union. An 
internal investigation by the force gave up four officers to the 
prosecutor's office after some Rengo members complained about the 
cameras to the Oita Prefectural Police. The cops responsible obviously 
didn't think too hard about the political optics of where they placed 
them, and they have received pay cuts and reprimands as a result.**Ed: 
Of course, no one is saying that there was an order from Kasumigaseki to 
spy on the local opposition members, but then, that would probably be a 
national secret, wouldn't it?** (Source: TT commentary from 
japantimes.co.jp, Aug 28, 2016)


NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days of 
posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.


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Title: "Tokyo Bay Cruise ICA Summer Networking"
Details: Complete event details at 
Venue: Tokyo Takeshiba Terminal

Date: September 9th (Friday)
Cost*: ¥3,000 ICA members; ¥4,000 non-members. Special offer on the 
night. Join the ICA for ¥5,000, a 50% discount, and you will be admitted 
at the members rate!
Note: You must be at Tokyo Bay - Takeshiba Terminal by 6:35pm as the 
ship sets sail at 7:00pm sharp. Meeting point is at the Big Ship Mast at 
the front and if on arrival you are unable to find this location then 
please call 080-4169-9660 ASAP.

RSVP: Tickets will be limited and you must register with the ICA by 
September 2nd by 5pm.



=> Asukano Log House Ice Cream, Nara
Sweet relief from the summer heat

I know no heat like a Japanese summer and summer in Nara Prefecture can 
be even hotter. The rice fields and mountains of Asuka Village in the 
southern part of the Nara Basin offer some relief from the heat of the 
city, but not nearly as much as the ice cream and frozen yogurt of the 
Log House.

I was on a filming and photography excursion collecting photos and video 
of Asuka's most ancient and significant sites (it is Japan's first 
capital after all). I had just finished up at the Ishibutai, a 7th 
century burial mound with a monolithic stone tomb open to the public, 
and needed some form of refreshment before moving to the next site. I 
had read about the Asukano Log House in a Nara-related newspaper article 
and as it was located just across the street from the Ishibutai, I went 
there for an ice cream.

I had been expecting a display full of tubs of ice cream and there was, 
but next to it was a display with lots of real fruit as well. What a bonus!

"We can grind and mix your choice of fruit with our frozen yogurt," the 
lady working the counter informed me (in Japanese). "Would you like to 
try some? All the fruits but the tropical ones came from here in Asuka." 
I asked for chocolate frozen yogurt to be mixed with strawberries. 
"Nobody has ever ordered that before," she told me. "Most people do 
vanilla and strawberry." Nonetheless, she proceeded to fill my order. I 
love Asukano, they took my order while other ice cream stores rigidly 
follow the menu and flat out refuse requests like mine.


=> DMM Planets x TeamLab in Odaiba
Art and technology unite in a mesmerizing display

In collaboration with DMM Planets, TeamLab has come up with another 
amazing art installation for Fuji TV's summer festival. For an entrance 
fee of ¥2000, visitors can experience an otherworldly interactive art 
exhibit, incorporating lights, music, and digital art. This year it's 
entitled, "A World of Wonders."

TeamLab is a collaborative group, made of both creatives and technicians 
experimenting with the unification of art, technology, and science. The 
group's works are charged with both creativity and precision, that leave 
visitors of all ages in awe. This specific exhibition highlights some of 
TeamLab's most popular works, such as the Crystal Universe.

In the first main room, you may let out a gasp of surprise when you 
enter the Crystal Universe. Rows upon rows of lights are lined up in 
different forms and clusters, allowing guests to walk through the art 
itself. The walls and ground are made of mirrors, which subsequently 
create an illusion of infinite lights. In sync with the ambient music, 
the lights change hues, zoom throughout different sections of the 
installation, and twinkle ever so fluidly.

After taking ample pictures and wandering through the space in awe, many 
people sit against a wall in an open space to simply watch the light 
show play out from start to end. While many could sit for hours on end 
fully experiencing the Crystal Universe, several more exhibitions in the 
DMM Planets space wait to be explored. Prepare to get a bit wet in the 
next installation though (as well as several of the paths in-between), 
as water fills the room up to knee height.




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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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