TV association requests aid measures for a third time

TV association requests aid measures for a third time

Digital TV operators who signed contracts to pay licensing fees periodically now say they can't afford the payments, and are begging Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to bail them out by using government funds. (Bangkok Post file photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Digital TV operators who signed contracts to pay licensing fees periodically now say they can't afford the payments, and are begging Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to bail them out by using government funds. (Bangkok Post file photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The Digital TV Operators Association has doubled down on pressuring the government to overhaul the country's broadcasting industry, which they say is facing impending disaster.

The association president Suparp Kleekachai submitted new aid requests to the government on Tuesday, through Deputy Prime Minister Visanu Krua-ngam, but he did not disclose the details of the proposals.

This is the third time Mr Suparp has formally called upon the government to support the industry. While this time he asked for aid to be directed to the industry as a whole, his first two calls (which have yet to be addressed) requested aid for the digital TV sector specifically.

"The industry needs a variety of serious measures to help ease its financial difficulties, and amend rules and regulations to allow all broadcasters to run real business models and suitable practices, while allowing them to exit the business if they so choose," a source close to Mr Suparp said.

"All broadcast companies want some serious measures to help ease financial difficulties -- not only digital TV operators but also cable and satellite TV operators," Mr Suparp said, noting that these industries are vital to Thailand's media.

The association submitted a proposal last month to the Media Reform Committee to help mediate talks with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the government over state assistance to ease broadcasters' financial burden.

The proposal last month called for the NBTC and the government to subsidise the broadcasting network or multiplex (MUX) costs due in January 2018 and to waive all remaining licence fees starting from the May 2018 payment.

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

Additionally, the association urged the NBTC and the government to amend the existing digital TV development roadmap, which envisions expanding the number of digital TV channels to 48, a number the association deems too high.

Mr Suparp said another reason the association submitted the proposal is to make the government more aware of the plight of traditional media such as TV and print, detailing the lack of future prospects for digital TV if financial constraints are left unaddressed.

Unemployment and negative impacts on the country's economy will ensue accordingly, he said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha later brushed aside the association's renewed request, saying the issue falls under the sole purview of the NBTC.

On this issue, NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith also insisted earlier that it would be difficult for the NBTC to deliver on the association's request, as it would conflict with existing laws and regulations, including the conditions of the digital TV licence auctions.

For the NBTC to subsidise the MUX rental fee or even waive all remaining licence fees, it could put the regulator at risk of legal backlash because the action would infringe on state benefits, he said.


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