Things Picking Up at NHK

Hashimoto GenichiNational broadcast network NHK has seen a recovery in license fee revenues, according to the financial report submitted to the government yesterday. Total operational revenue for 2007 was ¥657.5 billion, of which ¥635 billion was from license fees, an increase of ¥220 million from the year before. Operational expenses also increased, to ¥647.2 billion. Revenues began dropping in 2005 when almost a million households refused to pay the fees following a series of scandals at the network. From October 1, NHK will stop visiting homes to collect fees and will broaden the scope of exemptions for the disabled. From February of next year, discounts will be given to businesses and expanded for families. Last year chairman Hashimoto Genichi (photo, 64) and executives tried to introduce a reduction of up to ¥100 in the license fee, but the decrease was by denied the management committee. No such proposal was mentioned this time.

• The latest romance rumor about popular actress Yonekura Ryoko (32) comes as a bit of a surprise. Previously connected with younger handsome guys like kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo (30) and soccer star Nakata Hidetoshi (30), this time she seems to have gone for a goofy comedian. Today’s issue of women’s weekly “Josei Seven” says she was spotted in Roppongi at the end of December with Tamura Atsushi (34) of the popular duo London Boots. Atsushi is said to have pursued Yonekura since she appeared last February as a guest on the variety show “London Hearts”.

Bunraku master Yoshida Bungo died of liver cancer at his Osaka home yesterday. He was 73. A veteran of the Japanese puppet theater, he started in the early 1950s and spent more than 20 years operating female puppets. While standing in for the ailing Kiritake Kanjuurou, he mastered the “tachiyaku” or leading male role and switched to his final stage name in 1982. He was briefly married to the American talento Edith Hanson (68).