NBTC asks Thai TV to halt broadcasts

NBTC asks Thai TV to halt broadcasts

Move would buy time to sort out finance

Transmitting dishes stand atop Baiyoke Tower II. Thai TV wants to scrap its year-old digital channels and focus on the cable and satellite platforms. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
Transmitting dishes stand atop Baiyoke Tower II. Thai TV wants to scrap its year-old digital channels and focus on the cable and satellite platforms. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

The regulator has suggested that cash-strapped Thai TV Co suspend the broadcast of its two digital channels until it secures business partners.

The recommendation was made Monday during the first round of talks between the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and Thai TV.

The Central Administrative Court on July 9 told both sides to negotiate and settle the dispute themselves instead of engaging in a lengthy court fight.

Thai TV lawyer Suchart Chomkul will discuss the NBTC's suggestion with chairwoman Pantipa Sakulchai. Both will go to court for additional hearings on the case today.

After the talks, Supinya Klangnarong, a member of the NBTC's broadcasting committee, said Thai TV should file a proposal to suspend the airing of its children's channel and news channel until it finds business partners or joint content providers.

The company is able to rent 40% of its airtime to other companies while sounding out business partners to hold a stake, actions that could improve its finances.

"We still don't want Thai TV to return the two licences and quit the digital TV business," Ms Supinya said. "If Thai TV lets the two channels go black without our approval, it will be banned from doing any broadcasting business in the future."

She said she understood the difficulty Thai TV faced in finding business partners after failing to make licence payments.

"What we can do now is give advice to Thai TV and try every means to prevent its two digital channels from going black," Ms Supinya said.

The NBTC said it could accept a temporary broadcast suspension of Thai TV's two channels. In the past, some satellite TV operators sought a broadcast suspension while undergoing the process of improving content.

Analysts said the NBTC got stuck with its own strict regulations and was trying every means to help Thai TV move on, short of quitting the digital TV business outright.

Col Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting panel, could not be reached for comment on the issue Monday.

Mr Suchart said Ms Pantipa would make the final decision about the company's future.

The company at first had set a deadline to stop broadcasting its two channels on the digital system on July 26.

Thai TV announced its intention to return its two digital licences to the NBTC after failing to pay the second instalment of auction fees worth 288 million baht in May.

The NBTC issued a deadline to claim 288 million baht from the company via a bank guarantee by tomorrow.

Thai TV faces a 300-million-baht loss from running the two channels for more than a year. The licence for the Loca children's channel is worth 648 million baht, and the one for Thai TV News is worth 1.3 billion. 

"We will go ahead with our plan to move to the satellite and cable TV platforms no matter how the negotiations turn out," Ms Pantipa said.

The ailing company plans to shift its own content from Loca and Thai TV News to the satellite and cable platforms and replace them with home shopping and programmes about amulets.

Live news and folk music shows will continue to air on Thai TV News.

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