NBTC eases digital TV burden

NBTC eases digital TV burden

Measures to help struggling operators

The broadcasting regulator is set to implement four new measures next year to ease the financial burden of digital TV operators amid tough competition.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) board has already approved the measures, said secretary-general Takorn Tantasith.

First, the NBTC will subsidise digital TV operators' costs for transmitting their programme signals to satellite and cable TV platforms for three years. The subsidy will total 2.5 billion baht.

It will be provided through the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for the Public Benefit, due to be established in March next year.

Under the NBTC's must-carry rule, which enables all platforms to access free TV channels, all digital TV broadcasters are required to send their programme signals to the cable and satellite TV platforms, apart from broadcasting via the terrestrial system.

While digital TV operators are responsible for the transmission costs, they have repeatedly asked the regulator to find ways to ease their financial burdens.

Second, the NBTC is considering an extension of the auction fee payment for digital TV operators.

The NBTC granted 24 digital TV channel licences to 17 winning bidders in April 2014. The winners have to pay a combined 50.9 billion baht in auction fees that are spread out over six years.

Mr Takorn said digital TV operators have almost reached the halfway mark with combined auction fee payments exceeding 20 billion baht. The fourth payment is due in May 2017, the fifth in May 2018 and the last in May 2019.

The NBTC plans to decide on a clear timeline by February next year on how long the regulator will extend the payment period for digital TV channel operators.

"Personally, I think digital TV operators might be allowed to delay their auction fee repayment until 2022, compared with the existing terms that the last payment be made in May 2019," said Mr Takorn.

Third, the NBTC implemented a new annual licence fee structure for digital TV broadcasters last month that would help them reduce the fees by 50% on average, he said.

The new structure has a progressive rate, depending on the performance of broadcasters. The fees range from 0.5% if annual revenue is under 5 million baht, 0.75% for revenue between 5-50 million, 1% for 50-500 million, 1.75% for 500 million to 1 billion, to 2% for broadcasters having revenue exceeding 1 billion.

Mr Takorn said the new licence fee structure for digital TV broadcasters was published in the Royal Gazette in November. That means all digital TV operators will pay licence fees this year under the new structure.

"About 90% of digital TV operators earn less than 500 million baht a year will pay a 1% licence fee rate, down from 2% before," he said.

Lastly, the NBTC plans to reduce annual licence fees even more for digital TV operators that broadcast programmes with content related to the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

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