On May 27, Sagamihara District Court in Yokohama, Japan, ruled that regardless of whether or not someone has entered into a contract with NHK (Japan’s public broadcasting station), being in possession of a TV-equipped device, like a smartphone or car navigation equipment, is enough by law to be obligated to pay NHK’s licensing fees.

According to NHK News, the same district court ordered a household in Kanagawa Prefecture to pay a TV license fee that was calculated back to when they first bought their TV set many years ago. The total fee came in at a whopping 109,000 yen (US$1,100). Such a ruling is a first of its kind; up until now if you could somehow avoid signing the TV license contract, you could rid yourself of any obligations to pay.

Without doubt, this latest ruling will leave many non-NHK subscribers with a TV asking themselves, “Should I ditch the box or front the fee?”

Here at RocketNews24, we’ve grouped together comments made by Twitter users who had quite a bit to say about it all:

“Absolutely outrageous. I can see myself being made to enter into a TV license contract just for buying a new phone or car navigation kit.”

“You’re telling me that NHK really has that much of a viewership? Doesn’t make a difference to me if it’s there or not. What about just not watching it?”

“What concerns me about this latest ruling is how NHK found out the defendant’s name. I wonder if NHK started the lawsuit without them even knowing? Maybe the concerned party cancelled their TV license contract a while back which is why they got tracked?”

“We’ve lost the free rights war to NHK!”

“This hits hard. What about deducting the fee from our taxes? Wait a minute, I’m against that as well. Damn it!”

“These are really tough sales tactics on NHK’s part. Who wants to pay money to a station that doesn’t keep their content neutral!”

“This is down right immoral.”

“I feel sorry for anyone who signed up for a TV equipped smartphone.”

“It’s terrifying me, ahh!”

As you can clearly see from the comments above, the majority of Twitter users are very critical and a little disgruntled by the latest ruling. What’s more, looking at the Q&A section on the NHK site, it clearly states that any equipment capable of receiving a TV signal such as a PC or car navigation system also becomes a target. This means that anyone in Japan might end up having to sign a NHK TV license contract just for owning a portable game console like the Nintendo DS.

It’s difficult to look at any of this in a positive way, but according to NHK, a contract is counted per household so it is possible to theoretically be the owner of many TV viewing devices while only paying the one contract fee. However, for anyone living in Japan who is determined not to pay the fees, the only advice we can give is make sure you don’t unknowingly buy a smartphone with built-in TV capabilities.

[ Read in Japanese ]