Legal experts are warning that "must-carry" and "must-have" rules by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will distort the broadcast industry and probably even violate the Intellectual Property (IP) Act.
The must-carry rule was issued last year with an aim to get rid of black-screen problems, as content on free TV must be broadcast across the country on any platform without condition.
Meanwhile, the must-have rule requires companies holding broadcast rights for the FIFA World Cup, SEA Games, Asean Games, Asean ParaGames, Paralympics and Olympic Games to allow the programming to air on free TV.
Prof Orabhund Panuspatthna, an IP expert in Chulalongkorn University's law faculty, said both rules imposed by the NBTC differ from the original concept.
The must-carry rule is supposed to promote informative channels such as children's and educational content with a low coverage area. Every broadcast platform has to carry these channels.
But the NBTC requires every platform to carry all content broadcast on free TV, including sporting events that are broadcast under international rules.
The must-have rule's main goal is to increase the chances of viewing global sports and other important events. In Australia it is called the anti-siphoning rule.
"The black-screen problem will continue even though the regulator has issued these rules," said Prof Orabhund.
Witsanu Tanthawiroon, an economic consultant to the NBTC, said the must-carry rule has not resolved the black-screen problem, which was seen during the Futsal World Cup in December.
One solution is that free TV and other platforms could agree among themselves about carrying free TV content on other platforms. This would be called the "must-offer" rule.
"The regulator should reconsider existing rules that will distort the broadcasting industry in the future," said Mr Witsanu.
Patchima Tanasanti, director-general of the Intellectual Property Department, said her office has wanted to talk to the NBTC since the must-carry rule was issued, but it got a poor response.
The rules by the NBTC will influence not only Thailand but also the global market, reflecting badly on the country's public figures who do not respect the IP Act, she said.
Pornpan Techarungchaikul, chief operating officer of RS Plc, which holds broadcast rights for the FIFA World Cup 2014, said the rules reflect the unfair competition, promoted by the regulator, that free TV will ultimately exploit.
Under FIFA's conditions, World Cup broadcast rights holders must air 22 matches in 95% of a country's area.
But Thailand's must-have rule has specific requirements that the final match be broadcast on free TV and that the number of free broadcast matches be at least 22. RS did not inform FIFA about the extra requirements.
"Anyway, we will follow the must-have rule and broadcast 22 matches on free TV," said Mrs Pornpan.
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Writer: Saengwit Kewaleewongsatorn