New efforts to rescue digital TV licensees

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national April 01, 2018 01:00



THE National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has vowed to push forward a rescue package to help lift the financial burden on digital television licence holders. This follows the refusal on Tuesday by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as leader of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), to use his special powers under Article 44 of the interim constitution to help the embattled broadcasters.

“The NBTC’s priority is to solve the problem of digital TV,” Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said yesterday at a forum at Thai PBS headquarters on how the local press can survive in the digital era.

He said that the NBTC would take a proposal back to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is chairman of a committee responsible for the issue, next week. It would then be up to Wissanu whether he takes the proposal to Prayut.

 Takorn said he was confident that the proposal to assist the licence holders was in the best interests of the country. However, Prayut has said he wants the NBTC to explain how the public would benefit.

Critics objected to a previous rescue package presented to Prayut, which also included financial relief for telecoms operators. The proposal to assist digital TV broadcasters includes a three-year debt moratorium on unpaid licence fees and 50 per cent reduction in ground network fees for 24 months.

Takorn said he actually did not want Prayut to invoke Article 44; he wanted the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to make a change to the NBTC law to allow the resale of digital TV licences. This would permanently solve the issue. The proposed amendment to the NBTC law is pending NLA scrutiny.

He said TV broadcasters had already paid licence fees of Bt34 billion, or 68 per cent of the total cost. New investors might be willing to shoulder the remaining cost of 32 per cent if licences could change hands without legal constraint. New investors may think it a good investment, as the remaining digital TV concession period of 11 years is an incentive.

The current law allows the entry of new shareholders to a company that has a digital TV licence, but does not allow licences to change hands between firms.

Takorn also said the NBTC wants to change the way of bidding on digital TV licences or mobile phone spectrum, as the previous system relied too much on pricing, with the highest bidder always winning the licence. The new bidding procedure should rely on other factors such as best interests of the public.

“It should be a hybrid bidding system taking into account pricing and public interest,” Takorn said, noting that many countries had adopted this approach.

Meanwhile, Triruj Navamarat, president of the Media Agency Association of Thailand, said at the same forum that advertising spending is expected to grow 4 per cent this year.

Last year’s total advertising spending was Bt101 billion and, of this, half was spent on TV ads. Among digital TV broadcasters, channel 3 and channel 7 received about 70-80 per cent of the TV ads spending. Triruj suggested that those TV broadcasters who were not among the top 10 might need to improve their marketing.


Source :  The NATION

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