NBTC thins out digital TV licence rates

NBTC thins out digital TV licence rates

Bowing to industry pressure, the board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on Wednesday approved a new structure for annual digital TV licence fee rates, aiming to ease the financial burden of operators.

The new structure for annual licence fee rates will take effect in January 2018, but all digital TV operators will directly benefit this year because they can calculate 2017 performance under the new structure for paying fees to the NBTC in 2018.

The new rate structure for digital TV licence fees is progressive, dependent on the performance of the broadcaster. The fee is 0.125% for total annual revenue of 0-100 million baht, 0.25% for over 100 million to 500 million baht, 0.5% for over 500 million to 1 billion baht, 0.75% for over 1 billion to 5 billion baht, and 1.5% for more than 5 billion baht.

The existing rate structure charges 0.5% for total revenue of 0-5 million baht, 0.75% for over 5 million to 50 million baht, 1% for over 50 million to 500 million baht, 1.75% for over 500 million to 1 billion baht, and 2% for more than 1 billion baht.

Mr Takorn said the new licence fee rate structure will not precisely match the changes proposed by the Digital TV Operators Association, but it can help reduce some burden.

He said digital TV operators have already paid a combined 34 billion baht to the NBTC, good for 64% of the combined winning bids of 50 billion baht.

The association had asked the regulator to waive the remaining licence payments of 16 billion baht that they owe under the auction conditions, while subsidising the broadcasting rental fee or multiplex (MUX) of 2.5 billion baht a year.

The government may have to invoke Section 44 to ease digital TV operators' financial burden and business difficulties under the operators' previously submitted proposal.

It would be difficult for the NBTC to deliver on all the association's requests, as they would come up against existing laws and regulations, including the conditions of the digital TV licence auctions, Mr Takorn said.

The operators association, led by president Suparp Kleekachai, said the NBTC's actions may help digital TV operators by easing some of the remaining licence fees, but they will still need more measures from the regulator such as waiving the licence and MUX fees that are the main obstacles to operating smoothly.

"First, I want to thank the NBTC for helping digital TV operators, even for a small amount of money, but I need them to look into the detail of the problems instead of reducing the licence fee payments alone," Mr Suparp said.

He said differing the rates of licence fee payments between big and small digital TV operators is a sensible policy.

Dew Waratangtragoon, deputy chief executive of The One Enterprise, the operator of One 31, said the digital TV industry model needs to be restructured because technological disruption in the form of over-the-top streaming or online content has severely affected digital TV operators over the past few years.

Mr Dew said the licence fee reduction benefits every digital TV operator, but the regulator should also consider the proposal of the association submitted to the Media Reform Committee.

On Tuesday, the association asked the NBTC and the government to help subsidise MUX costs that are due in January 2018 and waive all remaining licence fees from the May 2018 payment on.

They were also asked to expropriate the 450-700 megahertz spectrum range and auction it off to raise funding for the requested subsidy.

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