7 digital TV channels to exit
Operators submit letters of intent to return licences at yesterday's deadline
Seven digital TV channels have submitted letters of intent to return their licences and exit the business, leaving only 15 channels on the air.
The channels shutting down are Channel 3 Family 1, Channel 3 SD 28, Spring News 19, Spring 26 (formerly Now 26), MCOT 14, Voice TV 21 and Bright TV 20.
That leaves 15 digital TV channels after August this year, the date from which the channels can shut down as part of the timeline set by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
The seven channels, via six operators, submitted the letters on Friday at the May 10 deadline.
The NBTC is insisting that the government's assistance to all 22 digital TV channels will cost "less than 38 billion baht".
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the 38 billion baht includes 13.6 billion baht from waived licence payments from exiting operators under Section 44, 18.7 billion for the remaining nine years for all 22 digital TV licences that the government will subsidise, and the remainder to compensate the seven exiting channels for their remaining licence terms that they must forfeit.
Mr Takorn said the digital TV business has been increasingly challenged by innovative platforms such as over-the-top media that snatched up to 90% of advertising revenue from traditional media. The NBTC acknowledged that some channels faced net losses as high as 10 billion baht over the last four years.
Mr Takorn said the regulator will expedite paying compensation, doing so around August after the digital TV channels exit the business. But he did not disclose the exact amount of compensation that the seven channels will get from the NBTC.
"It may be several billion baht, it is too early to say definitely," he said.
Each of the seven digital TV channels that exit the business will get compensation after subtracting the amount of assistance they got from the must-carry rule and broadcasting network rental fee subsidy, as well as their annual net profits.
"The figures of the compensation rate released by the media and analysts were not true, because the exact figures need to be calculated and rechecked by related parties," Mr Takorn said.
He said the NBTC ordered the seven channels to pay proper compensation benefits to their employees that are "no lower than" conditions of the current labour legislation.
The move is one more step in helping minimise the adverse effects on employees and their families after the process of relinquishing the licences.
"The prime minister raised concerns about the compensation benefits to digital TV employees and their families who will be affected by the exit," Mr Takorn said.
According to the existing NBTC timeline, the exiting TV operators have to submit all related documents to the regulator by July 10 or 60 days after the submission date.
One week later, the NBTC will take the proposals to its board for approval. After getting approval, the TV channels have to inform the public at least 30 days before they shut down.
Friday was also the deadline for the three major mobile operators to submit letters of intent to exercise their right to buy licences for the 700-megahertz spectrum in exchange for their 900MHz licence payment extension under Section 44.
Using Section 44, the three big telecom operators each will be allowed to extend 900MHz licence payment terms for another five years, but only if they agree to buy a 700MHz licence.
Mr Takorn said True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) submitted first on Tuesday, followed by Total Access Communication (DTAC) on Thursday and Advanced Info Service (AIS) on Friday.
According to the NBTC's timeline for the planned 700MHz allocation, the agency will release a draft of the 700MHz licence conditions on its website for opinions from May 14 until May 30. A public hearing will be held on May 22.
The draft is expected to be published in the Royal Gazette between June 1 and 7.
Mr Takorn said the official submission date for buying the 700MHz licences is June 19, and the three major mobile operators have to submit documents and related financial papers to the NBTC.
Mobile operators who fail to submit proposals on June 19 will have to pay for the 900MHz licence under the original conditions.
Rajiv Bawa, chief corporate affairs and business development officer at DTAC, said the spectrum allocation should be delayed until the NBTC can publish a clear spectrum roadmap, including time of allocation and fair valuation of available spectrum, before discussing any further auctions.
"DTAC will study the terms and conditions from the information memorandum expected to be announced in May," Mr Bawa said.