TOKYO (TR) – A court in Tokyo on Wednesday ordered major hotel chain Toyoko Inn to pay public broadcaster NHK some two billion yen over outstanding licensing fees, reports the Asahi Shimbun (Mar. 29).
Judge Tetsuro Nakayoshi of the Tokyo District Court said the business hotel chain and its group company was obligated to pay around 1.93 billion yen to cover NHK’s television licensing fees for some 34,000 rooms across its 235 hotels nationwide.
The fine for unpaid licensing fees to NHK was the highest amount ever handed down by a court, according to the broadcaster.
The dispute stemmed from whether Toyoko Inn was liable to pay licensing fees for a percentage of rooms that the chain argued had been rendered exempt from payment over a two-year period prior to the signing of a contract with NHK for all rooms in 2014.
The hotel chain argued that “an agreement was made with NHK that for this period only a certain percentage of rooms would be covered, so payment for the remaining rooms was exempt.”
NHK said that “payment for the remaining rooms was not exempt.”
In the ruling, the judge said the “Broadcast Law does not permit arbitrary contract exemptions for NHK, and it cannot be recognized that an agreement over an exemption had been established.”
One of Toyoko Inn’s lawyers said the group “plans to appeal against the ruling, which is completely unacceptable.”
NHK said that “our view is that our arguments have essentially been recognized.”
Does Broadcast Law violate Constitution?
NHK has been mired in a number of scandals in recent years, resulting in a rise in unpaid licensing fees — a condition that since 2006 has prompted the broadcaster to seek legal measures to obtain fair payment.
In one case, NHK filed a lawsuit targeting minpaku private lodgings seeking licensing fee payment based on the number of rooms at an establishment. In 2014, a judge ruled that such lodgings are obligated to pay in accordance with their total number of rooms.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Japan has decided to take up a case involving a man who refused to pay NHK’s licensing fee, and plans to make Japan’s first ruling on whether the licensing fee system under the Broadcast Law is a violation of the Constitution.