NHK’s infamous methods of making people pay TV licence (otherwise known as broadcast receiving licence) has been a topic of discussion for a long time now. By not paying for it, you can actually save some SGD$25,000 over an 80-year span.
The TV licence is mandatory as long as you have a TV at home, regardless of whether you watch it or not. In the past, people have tried to avoid paying by claiming they do not watch NHK, or even that they do not watch the TV. However, things don’t work that way, it appears. And this is true even for foreign students who are not even good at Japanese to actually watch the TV. But what if your TV doesn’t receive NHK signals?
An Associate Professor of Tsukuba University, Kakeya Hideki, actually invented a device called イラネッチケー (iraNHK), a combination of the words irattosuru, which means “annoying,” and NHK, and explains how one can avoid paying the TV licence.
*Correction: I found out the actual spelling was iraneHK (pronounced iranecchikei), which is a combination of iranee (crude way of saying “I don’t want”) and NHK.
What does iraNHK do?
There is a product on the market that filters signals to prevent your TV from receiving NHK shows and it is called iraNHK. The product was developed by Kakeya and the name was given by his students. According to him, the theory is very simple such that all sophomore students of Electrical and Electronics Engineering would have no problem understanding.
Currently, the product is being sold on Amazon and a few other media by a startup run by his graduated research students. It sells for about 5,000 yen (about SGD$60), and has sold about 2,000 units. That would mean, they have a turnover of over $120,000 on this product alone.
The reason Kakeya decided to develop this product was due to an incident whereby a YouTube video of MP Nakayama Nariaki’s questions at the parliament on March 8, 2013 was removed by request from NHK. On the same day, at the committee meeting of the lower house, MP Tsujimoto Kiyomi also posted questions regarding the comfort women issue, taking the opposite stance from Nakayama. But while both videos were uploaded to YouTube, NHK only requested for Nakayama’s to be deleted.
This case was later pursued at parliamentary meetings. On March 27 that same year at the committee meeting of the upper house, MP Kamei Akiko questioned NHK’s actions. Also, on February 3 the following year, Sugita Mio raised this issue again stating that NHK’s behavior violated Article 4 of the Broadcasting Act which requires them to be politically impartial.
NHK’s lack of impartiality was criticized by both right-wing and left-wing. The incident brought to the surface the difficulty in defining what constitutes being impartial. Regardless, it was blatant that NHK wasn’t neutral in their actions and that made Kakeya decide to develop something to avoid receiving NHK signals.
Article 64 of the Broadcasting Act states that any party who owns a device that is capable of receiving the association’s broadcasting signal is obligated to sign a contract for receiving the signal with the association. The “association,” of course, refers to Japan Broadcasting Corporation, i.e. NHK. Accordingly, that would also mean that even if you have a TV, as long as it cannot receive NHK’s broadcasting signals, you should not be required to enter into an agreement with NHK.
You might be wondering why not just build TVs that do not receive NHK signals instead. That would likely be the best option. However, it is less of a technical issue, but more of a legal issue.
NHK actually owns a lot of patents regarding TV broadcast. A look at the patent database J-Platpat reveals that NHK has applied for over 1,000 patents regarding digital broadcast. Among which, over 100 were granted to them. To the contrary, antenna is a very old technology and hence, most of its IP rights have expired and that is why Kakeya decided to tackle the antenna instead.
The truth behind NHK’s unethical sales activities
It has not been legally established that you are not required by law to enter into agreement with NHK just because your TV is unable to receive NHK’s signal. Nevertheless, the filter device has already sold 2,000 units and that speaks a lot about how much people dislike NHK.
Kakeya says that he’s been paying his share of TV licence and thus, has never ran into yakuza-esque behavior of NHK’s outsourced salespeople. However, several of his students have talked about it and that is how he came to feel the extent of that behavior.
Currently, NHK is targeting foreign students who are not proficient at Japanese. One of whom happened to be Kakeya’s student. This student was living with his girlfriend, making up one household. And the rule is, each household only has to enter into one agreement. However, the student and his girlfriend were made to enter into two agreements individually. On top of that, despite not having any device to receive satellite TV signals, they were also conned into paying for the BS (Broadcast Satellite; not “bullshit”) channels. Kakeya helped this student make a call to NHK and managed to terminate one of the two contracts that they were tricked into signing twice as well as change the satellite TV contract to the regular terrestrial TV one. But NHK refused to return the couple the additional money they had been tricked into paying.
Such despicable tactics have caused many people a lot of trouble. I’ve heard of a foreigner who used to work here and just a few weeks before he was about to leave the country, he was approached by the NHK salespeople for the first time. The guy asked him to pay for the TV licence and he said he’s not going to pay because he is leaving the country in a couple of weeks. However, the salesperson told him that he has to pay for that month since he lives there and won’t have to pay when he leaves. So, he signed the paper and made the payment for that month. A couple of weeks later, he left the country but the following month, an invoice was delivered to his place asking for the following month’s payment. This means, the salesman tricked him into signing the contract instead of just that one-time payment, which he claimed. The foreigner’s friend then called in to NHK for him to terminate the contract because how can someone not in Japan pay for the licence?
With such stories, Kakeya decided that the anti-NHK device may help. And while we still have to wait to see if the law accepts that as a reason to not pay NHK, already, there’s a good piece of news.
What you must know about your contract with NHK
Way before Kakeya took action against NHK, congressman of Tokyo’s Katsushika ward, Tachibana Takashi, was already fighting for the right to change satellite TV contracts to terrestrial TV contracts.
If you lived in an apartment where satellite cables has been laid and you own a TV that has the satellite TV tuner, even if your room doesn’t have the satellite cables connected, you were still obliged to sign the satellite TV contract. TVs without satellite tuners are hardly available on the market now and so, Kakeya then helped him damage the satellite tuner in his TV.
After that, NHK actually allowed him to change his contract from the satellite one to a terrestrial TV one. The satellite TV contract actually costs about 10,000 yen more annually and can be a significant amount over a person’s lifetime. If this method becomes accepted officially, Kakeya intends to help others who want to do the same to damage their satellite tuners.
Of course, If you never watch the TV, throwing it away means a saving of some $300 a year. But if you don’t want to throw it away, you can opt to destroy the tuner and connect it to the Internet to watch online shows or play games with it. Major TV programs by commercial broadcasting agencies are available on the official TV portal site TVer which can be accessed via the Internet, so you can still catch some shows or even just forgo traditional TV and stick to online programming.
During the legal fight, NHK submitted an opinion paper by Tokyo University Professor, Tamai Katsuya, on which states that one is not obligated to sign a contract with NHK if the TV tuner is broken. This suggests that damaging both your satellite and terrestrial TV tuners can relief you of entering into the agreement with the broadcaster.
Major TV manufacturers have finally met such needs by releasing Android TVs. Sony, for one, has announced in March that its Bravia TV without TV tuners will be released at the end of July this year. And that means, people who want the TV without watching TV programs no longer have to resort to breaking their tuners.
NHK ignores the statute of limitations
The other thing important to note with regard to your contract with NHK is regarding the statute of limitations. If you’ve ever signed the contract with NHK and end up defaulting payment after that, the statute of limitations states that one is not required to pay anything exceeding 5 years.
Unfortunatley, in spite of that, NHK continues to request for payment that goes beyond 5 years back. If you pay it to them, you can never get it back. So, know your rights to deny payment for sums that goes more than 5 years back. Tell the salesperson that when harrassed to pay by referencing the law and you’ll be alright.