World Cup TV in limbo as funds short

World Cup TV in limbo as funds short

B600m pledged, but more needed

People walk at Souq Waqif, a traditional marketplace, ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 soccer tournament, in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Reuters)
People walk at Souq Waqif, a traditional marketplace, ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 soccer tournament, in Doha, Qatar. (Photo: Reuters)

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) has approved an allocation of just 600 million baht to help finance the purchase of the rights to broadcast live World Cup 2022 matches.

The move has raised concerns over how the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) will be able to find the balance of about 1 billion baht to ensure free viewing for all Thais, especially as the tournament nears.

Trairat Viriyasirikul, acting secretary-general of the NBTC, said on Wednesday that a majority of NBTC members voted for an allocation of 600 million baht from the NBTC's research and development fund to support the SAT's bid to buy the broadcasting rights.

"The majority of NBTC members approved an allocation of 600 million baht so Thais can watch all 64 live World Cup 2022 matches free of charge,'' he said.

Mr Trairat said the SAT was negotiating with Fifa, football's international governing body, to reduce the price of the broadcasting rights to about 1.2 billion baht. Fifa has not yet given an answer.

Trairat: Wants Fifa to cut price

So, the NBTC decided to finance half of the negotiated price, or 600 million baht, and the SAT will now have to find ways to seek additional funding, Mr Trairat said. The World Cup football tournament is among seven major sports competitions under the NBTC's so-called "Must Have'' rules requiring free broadcasting for viewers in Thailand, he said.

The others are the Southeast Asian Games, Asean Para Games, Asian Games, Asian Para Games, Olympic Games, Paralympic Games.

However, critics said this rule adversely discourages companies -- that normally seek such broadcast rights -- from competing for them.

According to media reports, Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, chairman of the NBTC board, proposed drawing the 1.6 billion baht from the NBTC's research and development fund to buy the broadcasting rights during an NBTC board meeting on Oct 28.

SAT governor Kongsak Yodmanee admitted he was worried about how to find the rest of the money to fund the rights after the NBTC approved the allocation of only 600 million baht.

He said the SAT will try as hard as it can to find the money as the 2022 World Cup is fast approaching.

"At this stage, I cannot confirm that Thais will be able to watch the World Cup because we have to hold talks with the private sector.

"But that will be difficult as the cost is very high. We will also have to negotiate with Fifa representatives,'' he said.

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will be played from Nov 20-Dec 18, with 32 teams competing in 64 matches for football's most prestigious trophy.

With the tournament less than two weeks away, fans were concerned as no broadcasters in Thailand had shown an interest in securing the rights to air the matches.

Pirongrong Ramasoota, an NBTC commissioner, opposed the move to draw money from the fund to buy broadcasting rights. Writing on Facebook, she said it is not the NBTC's duty to spend money from the fund buying broadcasting rights and any investment in buying the rights should be carried out in line with market mechanisms.

"If 1.6 billion is spent on buying the rights, we will lose an opportunity to promote content that benefits society and needs funding," she wrote, adding the spending would also affect the fund's liquidity.

A source said previously that the NBTC's fund has about 2 billion baht left.

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