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2012年10月14日 (日)

受信料値下げ NHK改革を進める一歩に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 14, 2012)
NHK viewership fee cut must lead to further reform
受信料値下げ NHK改革を進める一歩に(10月13日付・読売社説)

NHK has cut its monthly television subscription fee, starting this month. The public broadcaster should take this opportunity to press ahead with internal reform.

The fee cut is the first since 1968, when NHK introduced the current subscription fee system. The monthly fee of 1,345 yen for viewers of terrestrial broadcasting has been reduced by 120 yen when it is automatically withdrawn from bank accounts or paid by credit card, and by 70 yen when paid via bank transfers or convenience stores.

The fee reduction is equivalent to 7 percent of NHK's subscription revenues. The cut is expected to reduce NHK's revenues by more than 100 billion yen during the three-year period from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2014.

In recent years, NHK has come under public fire for a string of misappropriations of expenditures for program production and other scandals, increasing the number of people who refuse to pay.

The fee cut is believed to be aimed at recovering eroded public trust.


Cost-cutting efforts not enough

The impact the cut will have on the business of NHK will not be small. NHK management says the public broadcaster plans to make up for the revenue reduction by redoubling efforts to boost the percentage of subscription payers and curtail expenditures. It is questionable, however, whether NHK can implement the cost-cutting plans as envisioned.

The national average of payment ratios for NHK subscription fees, which the broadcaster made public recently for the first time, stands at 72.5 percent. By prefecture, Akita had the highest ratio at 94.6 percent while Okinawa had the lowest at 42 percent.

The percentages of paid subscribers are also low in Tokyo and Osaka, hovering at around 60 percent. The subscription fee cut should be used as a lever to boost the percentage of fee payers.

A continuation of NHK's reform efforts is crucial to restoring viewers' trust.

NHK has launched a three-year business improvement program starting this fiscal year. However, its workforce of more than 10,000 will be reduced by only 280 under the plan.

The broadcaster should step up its streamlining endeavors to enhance efficiency of its bloated corporate structure.

Its efforts to slash expenditures can hardly be considered sufficient.

Despite the subscription fee cut, NHK still will secure more than 600 billion yen in revenues. There should be concern that the colossal amount of subscription revenues will lead to a lack of cost-consciousness among NHK employees.


Quality programming crucial

In an age when fewer people are watching TV, NHK must focus on prompt reporting and high-quality programming.

The broadcaster has in fact gained a degree of public trust for such activities as earthquake disaster reporting and documentary programs. But instead of being complacent with this, NHK must renew its awareness of its proper role as a public broadcaster. Making programs similar to those seen on commercial television will never be enough.

With the use of mobile communication devices rapidly spreading, the issue of fusion of broadcasting and telecommunications is taking on greater significance to broadcast operations.

A case in point is the planned service of real-time transmission of broadcasts via the Internet. If realized, the service will enable people to watch broadcasts with smartphones wherever they are.

The advisability of such services being undertaken by NHK, which depends on viewer subscription, should be discussed as scrupulously as possible.

A firmly established framework of in-house governance is indispensable to the reform of NHK.

Kenichiro Hamada, who previously worked at All Nippon Airways, has assumed the long-troubled chairmanship of NHK's board of governors, the broadcaster's supreme decision-making body.

The new board chairman said in a press conference last month he is committed to "keeping a sound balance between NHK's business execution branch and the board as mutually necessary entities."

We hope very much Hamada will give full play to his ability in steering NHK in the right direction.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 13, 2012)
(2012年10月13日02時14分  読売新聞)


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