Apr 07. 2023Topics

NHK Fees: Do you Have to Pay?

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So you've moved to Japan, settled into your apartment, and decide to turn on the brand-new TV you bought for your new place. Maybe you plan on using the TV purely for streaming Netflix, or maybe you want to watch Japanese television to work on your Japanese skills. Either way, soon enough you will likely get a knock on your door from a man in a suit demanding that you pay a monthly fee just because you have a TV in your home.

This is the "NHK Receiving Fee," and it can come as quite a shock to people from countries that don't have this kind of system. But what is this fee really, and do you have to sign the contract the NHK collector presents to you? If you've just arrived in Japan and haven't heard of the receiving fee, it can be hard to know what to do.

So let's talk about what NHK is, whether or not you actually need to pay the reception fees, and what to do if the NHK comes knocking on your door asking you to pay.

What is NHK and What is the Receiving Fee?

The Japan Broadcasting Corporation, known as NHK, is Japan's primary public broadcaster. Their channels cover news, emergency reporting, educational programming for children, historical dramas, and more. No matter where you live in Japan, you will have access to at least one or two NHK channels on your TV.

Because it is a public broadcaster, NHK is funded by receiving fees that are meant to be paid by anyone with a TV in Japan. If you are from somewhere like the UK, where you are meant to pay license fees to fund the BBC, this system will be familiar. But for people coming from countries like the US, where there is no such system, it can be surprising to learn that you have to pay a receiving fee just because you have a TV in your home.

The Receiving Fee is currently ¥1280 per month, but the fee is subject to change annually. You can pay the receiving fee in multiple ways:

Bank Transfer (from your bank account to NHK)

Direct Withdrawal (from your bank account every two months)

Credit Card (only VISA, Mastercard, JCB, and American Express cards are accepted)

Convenience Store Payment (the bill will be sent to you by mail and you pay the bill at the convenience store)

There are also potential extra fees you may need to pay, including late payment fees, extra receiving fees for installation and maintenance if you need an antenna or satellite dish to receive NHK's broadcast, and cancellation fees.

Do You Legally Have to Sign a Contract with NHK?

Officially, the Japanese Broadcasting Act Article 64 states that:

"Persons installing reception equipment capable of receiving the broadcasts of NHK shall conclude a contract with NHK for the reception of the broadcasts; provided, however, that this shall not apply to those persons who have installed reception equipment not intended for the reception of broadcasts or reception equipment only capable of receiving broadcasting limited to radio broadcasting (meaning broadcasting which transmits voices and other sounds and does not come under television broadcasting or multiple broadcasting; the same shall apply in Article 126, paragraph (1)) or multiple broadcasting."

To put this simply, Article 64 is saying that if you have a TV in your home, you must sign a contract with NHK and pay the receiving fee. Article 64 doesn't care if you never watch NHK and only use your TV to play video games or watch TV and movies using streaming apps. It doesn't care if you are Japanese or a foreigner. If you live in Japan and have a TV in your home, you are expected to pay.

For information about the official policy (in English), click here.

All that being said...

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Do You REALLY Have to Pay?

While the law states you must pay the receiving fee if you have a TV, you should know that there are no legal repercussions for not paying if you never sign a receiving fee contract. This creates a loophole that people do take advantage of.

So do you have to pay the receiving fee? If you have signed a contract with NHK then yes, you have to pay in order to avoid extra fees and potential legal repercussions. But if you never sign a contract in the first place, there are no legal consequences if you don't pay. By avoiding signing a contract, you can avoid paying the receiving fee to NHK.

But how exactly does NHK get you to sign a contract? This brings us to the infamous "NHK Man."

Who is the "NHK Man?"

NHK Man is a common name for the collectors NHK sends door-to-door to get people to sign receiving fee contracts. They will often show up not long after you move into a new place, most commonly dressed in a suit and carrying a clipboard.

These independent contractors are not directly working for NHK and are likely paid by commission, so they can be notoriously persistent. The NHK Man may show up at your home in the evening (when you are most likely to be home) and will often make repeat appearances at your doorstep to try to get you to sign the dotted line.

For many people, the NHK Man can be very frustrating to deal with, especially since they can be very insistent on having you sign a contract if you engage with them. This has led to people in both the Japanese and ex-pat communities coming up with various ways to avoid speaking with the collectors or avoid signing a contract.

The easiest way to keep NHK collectors from visiting your home over and over again would be to sign the contract and start paying the receiving fee. Since the contract will last until you get rid of your TV, leave Japan, or pass away (whichever comes first), it is the most reliable way to make sure collectors don't come to your home in the future.

When a collector rings your doorbell, you can always try to say that you don't speak Japanese and can't communicate with them, but that may just result in an English-speaking collector being sent to your home the next time (this is much more likely if you live in a big city like Tokyo). If you don't have a TV in your home, tell them as much and they should hopefully leave you alone. You could also tell the collector you don't actually live in the home and are just visiting a friend, but this too will result in another collector coming to visit again soon enough. One other option is to never answer the door when you see someone who looks like the NHK Man there, but this too would lead to repeat visits.

So What Should You Do?

Now you know all about NHK, the NHK receiving fee and the fee collectors NHK will send to make you sign a contract if you have a TV in your home. So should you be paying the receiving fee?

Ultimately, the law does clearly state that if you have a TV in your home, you have to pay the receiving fee. But it can feel unfair to have to pay a receiving fee if you never even watch NHK, and that is why many people seem to choose to try to avoid paying. If you never sign a contract, there will not be any repercussions--but the NHK Man will be knocking on your door every so often until you finally do sign.

Hopefully, this article gives you a better understanding of these receiving fees and what you should do when you move into an apartment and buy a TV in Japan. Ultimately what you do with this information is up to you, but remember that eventually, the NHK Man will come knocking.

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