Court dismisses Thai TV's request

Court dismisses Thai TV's request

A commuter passes the office of Thai TV Co, operator of Loca and Thai TV digital channels. Both channels went off the air last December after the company failed to pay the second instalment of the auction fee to the NBTC. THANARAK KHUNTON
A commuter passes the office of Thai TV Co, operator of Loca and Thai TV digital channels. Both channels went off the air last December after the company failed to pay the second instalment of the auction fee to the NBTC. THANARAK KHUNTON

The Central Administrative Court yesterday dismissed an injunction request by cash-strapped Thai TV Co to protect its bank guarantee from being seized by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

After the court dismissal of the injunction request, the NBCT's broadcasting committee sent a letter to notify Bangkok Bank, the issuer of Thai TV's bank guarantee, to pay 1.78 billion baht on behalf of the ailing digital TV company.

The total amount comprises five instalments of auction fees plus 7.5% interest between May 26, 2015 and Feb 2, 2016.

Thai TV placed its bank guarantee worth a combined 1.97 billion baht with the NBTC when it was officially awarded two digital TV licences for Loca children's and Thai TV news channels in early 2014.

The licence for Loca channel is valued at 1.32 billion baht and the news channel licence is 648 million baht.

The company defaulted on the second instalment of auction fees worth 288 million baht in May last year.

A NBTC source said the formal notification letter would reach Bangkok Bank in the next few days.

Suchart Chomsakul, a lawyer for Thai TV, reaffirmed that Thai TV still has the right to refuse the payment for the remaining auction fees and interest totalling 1.78 billion baht after the revocation of the two digital TV channel licences on Feb 4. 

"Thai TV will not pay until the court makes the final ruling," said Mr Suchart. 

Thai TV president Pantipa Sakulchai could not be reached for comment on the issue yesterday.

Mr Suchart said the Central Administrative Court dismissed Thai TV's injunction request because the national regulator never sent its formal letter to ask Bangkok Bank to pay the remaining auction fees and interest for Thai TV. 

In fact, the bank should have received the notification letter since March 13.

An industry source said the court injunction dismissal put Thai TV in a corner and it would face more pressure to fight the regulator.

Mrs Pantipa sought a court injunction on June 30 last year to prevent the NBTC from claiming her bank guarantee for the defaulted payment of the second instalment worth 288 million baht.

The court convinced both sides to compromise, and the NBTC gave Thai TV a chance to find strategic partners by Nov 2 to help shore up its TV operations. Thai TV could not find any partner and its two channels went off the air on Dec 1. 

Mrs Pantipa said Thai TV could not find a partner because a potential investor changed its mind at the last minute after the regulator passed a resolution to demand Thai TV pay the overdue auction fees on Nov 2.

Thai TV's two channel licences were revoked on Feb 4. The NBTC had pressured Thai TV to pay the remaining auction fees and interest totalling 1.78 billion baht by March 13 but the company did not respond. The payment will also include the overdue second instalment of auction fees of 288 million baht.

The NBTC source said Thai TV still has to pay the 2% annual licence fee. The company has not paid it since last year.  

Thai TV said it faced a loss of 1 billion baht for running the two digital TV channels. It blamed the NBTC for failing to facilitate the smooth transition to digital TV.

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