The Supreme Court on Dec. 6 ruled that all TV owners in Japan must pay subscription fees to Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK), a decision that could have major ramifications on daily life.

In the lawsuit heard before all 15 justices, the top court said for the first time that a Broadcast Law provision, which requires individuals who have installed TV reception equipment in their homes to sign subscription contracts with NHK, was constitutional.

The case involved a man who installed a TV at his home in March 2006. In September 2011, public broadcaster NHK asked the man to sign a subscription contract, but the man refused because he felt NHK was biased in its broadcasting.

NHK then sued the TV owner for subscription fee payments in November that year.

A lawyer for the man argued that the provision used by NHK to collect fees was not legally binding and was only intended to encourage a certain effort toward achieving the goal set out in the provision.

The lawyer also said that forcing any individual to enter a contract constituted a violation of the constitutional right to freely enter contracts.

NHK lawyers said the provision was an obligation on the part of TV owners, and that it was both necessary and rational when considering the significance of public broadcasting.

The two sides also had different arguments for when the subscription contract was established.

NHK lawyers said a contract was established automatically when it asked that a contract be signed. Based on that reasoning, the public broadcaster said the defendant should pay subscription fees retroactively from the time the TV set was installed.

The defendant argued that the contract only came into effect with the finalization of a court ruling ordering the defendant to accept the contract, and that the obligation to pay subscription fees only arose after the contract came into effect.

The rulings in district and high courts said the Broadcast Law provision was constitutional, and a contract was established when a court ruling was finalized that ordered the defendant to accept the contract.

The rulings also concluded that the defendant was required to pay subscription fees retroactively from the time the TV set was installed.

Due to the wide-ranging ramifications of the case, then Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda in April submitted an opinion to the Supreme Court arguing that the Broadcast Law provision used by NHK to collect fees was constitutional.