NBTC risks free World Cup coverage
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NBTC risks free World Cup coverage

Regulator agrees to ditch rule that ensures seven sporting events are broadcast on free TV

A 2022 World Cup match is broadcast at a Bangkok bar for patrons. The regulator unanimously approved a draft cancelling the must have rule. (Photo: Bangkok Post)
A 2022 World Cup match is broadcast at a Bangkok bar for patrons. The regulator unanimously approved a draft cancelling the must have rule. (Photo: Bangkok Post)

A special meeting of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's (NBTC) board agreed in principle on Thursday to cancel the regulator's "must have rule".

NBTC acting secretary-general Trairat Viriyasirikul said the board unanimously approved a draft announcement to revoke the rule.

The must have rule, which has been in effect since 2012, requires companies holding the broadcast rights for seven major sporting events -- the Fifa World Cup, Southeast Asian Games, Asean Para Games, Asian Games, Asian Para Games, Olympic Games and Paralympic Games -- to allow the programming to air on free television channels.

The NBTC's must carry rule requires the programmes aired on free TV to be broadcast on any platforms without conditions, including on satellite TV, cable TV and Internet Protocol (IP) TV.

The agenda at Thursday's meeting was proposed by commissioner Pirongrong Ramasoota, who represents the broadcasting sector and is also head of NBTC's subcommittee for reviewing the must have rule.

Mr Trairat said the NBTC board also directed its management to begin a 30-day public hearing of the draft.

"It is too early to guess the public reaction and opinion on the move. The NBTC is open to all opinions," he said.

An NBTC board source who requested anonymity said the move to amend the must have rule was initiated after the end of the 2022 World Cup football tournament.

To serve the public interest, in November last year the NBTC contributed 600 million baht to help the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) come up with the 1.4 billion baht required to pay for the tournament broadcast rights.

Later the broadcast allocation of the World Cup matches caused conflicts between the NBTC, SAT and True Corporation, a major sponsor behind the purchase of the broadcasting rights.

The Association of Digital Television Broadcasting and IPTV operators also had opinions on the broadcasts.

SAT granted the exclusive rights for the tournament's broadcast, including on its IPTV and over-the-top platforms, to True, which railed against other IPTV operators airing the matches, claiming encroachment on its broadcast rights.

On Nov 26, True won an injunction from the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, and IPTV operators were blocked from the broadcasts.

The source said the NBTC wants to remove the World Cup from the must have list of sporting events, as the regulator tries to avoid involvement in business-driven content.

The public may want to keep some categories of sports on a must have rule list, such as those in which Thai athletes participate, said the source.

The NBTC might have to determine remedial measures as compensation for the public when it cancels sports categories for the must have rule, the source said.

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