Ministry: BBC chose to pull out of relay service talks
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Ministry: BBC chose to pull out of relay service talks

The Foreign Ministry has said BBC World Service chose to withdraw from talks on the extension of its shortwave relaying operation from Thailand even as Thai officials were sorting out the problem.

Busadee Santipitaks, spokesperson of the ministry, delivered the message in response to an earlier report that BBC ended its 20-year shortwave transmission services from Thailand after failing to reach an agreement to extend the deal with the Thai government.

BBC set up its shortwave relay station in Nakhon Sawan province under an agreement that Thai and British governments had signed on July 14, 1994. The station relay signals directly from London for BBC programmes in eight languages, excluding Thai, to all of Asia. The agreement expired on Dec 31, 2016, she said.

Throughout 2016, representatives of both sides regularly met to discuss the extension of the agreement for seven years.

As the extension would result in obligations subject to international laws, the agreement was considered a treaty. Therefore, the Thai government had to consider the draft extension agreement carefully to ensure Thailand's best interests and compliance with its laws and regulations, Ms Busadee said.

BBC had taken months before proposing its draft agreement to Thailand, which had regularly followed up on the issue.

The UK national broadcaster sent the extension draft that satisfied both sides on Dec 21, 2016, less than 10 days before the expiry date.

The period was too short for the Thai cabinet to approve the draft. Consequently, the relay station had to suspend its transmission temporarily on Jan 1 pending the extension, Ms Busadee said.

While Thailand was making progress with its internal procedures related to the matter, BBC informed the Foreign Ministry on Feb 27 that it withdrew from the negotiation process for the service extension. That was the unilateral decision of BBC, Ms Busadee said.

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