Originally published at Tokyo Stories, January 12, 2008
The doorbell startled us. Sunday, 7 p.m.? We weren’t expecting anyone. Wait! I knew who it was! He’d just been here a few days ago. He said he’d be back.
“Don’t move,” I whispered. “Should we turn off the light?”
My wife froze. She understood.
The Nippon Hoso Kyokai guy was here. He was armed (with his electronic receipt printer) and he wanted his money.
We knew he’d linger out in the cold hallway. But he would soon find out we weren’t going to pay.
The Public TV (NHK) fee collector would leave us alone. For now.
A 1950 law requires every household that has a TV, to pay a monthly “viewer fee” of between about USD 15.00-30.00, to help fund Public Television. Door-to-door collection is the usual payment method, although NHK also accepts bank-transfer payments. But, there’s no penalty for not paying!
So many people refuse to pay. And due to an NHK embezzlement scandal and other misconduct in 2005, lots of Japanese truly dissatisfied with NHK programming, have been using the scandal as another reason for not paying.
I used to claim ignorance – not understanding much Japanese, you know. But NHK eventually cleverly provided all the information in English, among other languages.
And, actually, I have paid, and would continue paying if they offered better programming. NHK offers bilingual broadcasts In English and other languages, of news, sports and entertainment programs. Currently its imported programs include ER, Full House, and Charlie’s Angels (first season, the one with Farrah Fawcett.)
The NHK collectors seem to take their job personally. One collector told my wife he’d come all the way from across town to make his collection here. And he was angry about not getting his – NHK’s – money.
Now if the NHK man dared argue with me, I’d have no problem closing the door. But the Japanese way is generally to have a long discussion (i.e. argument) through the crack of the chain-guarded door.
And once again, the NHK man didn’t get his money. My wife took the bank transfer form. And he said “You know what’s happening to people who refuse to pay, don’t you?”
Yeah, we know. In 2007, NHK, for the first time, was able to prosecute a few people who owed a couple year’s worth of payments.
So we’re safe. For now.