Govt to seek iTV fine of Bt94 bn
PM's Office to submit all documentation to attorney-general within two weeks
The Prime Minister's Office will submit to the attorney-general within two weeks documentation of its dispute with iTV Plc. It seeks more than Bt94 billion from the broadcaster.
[See the timeline of the iTV saga]
PM's Office permanent secretary Julayuth Hiranyawisit said yesterday a panel overseeing the concession contract calculated total fines, plus interest, were now Bt94.06 billion.
"It has been nearly six months since the Attorney General's Office advised us to file for compensation. Now, we will submit documents to that office and to PM's Office Minister Khunying Dhipavadee Meksawan for acknowledgement," Julayuth said.
In June, the government claimed the free-to-air broadcaster owed it fines totalling Bt76 billion for breaches of its concession agreement. It claimed the station adjusted programming ratios in 2004 without state consent and reduced concession-fee payments from those specified in the contract.
iTV was paying 6.5 per cent of revenue only - or a minimum of Bt230 million a year - based on a 2004 arbitration-committee judgement.
But the Central Administrative Court on May 9 overturned that decision and required iTV to pay 44 per cent of revenue or Bt1 billion a year - whichever was greater.
After the PM's Office insisted the station resume paying the original fee, iTV filed an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court on June 8.
The Central Administrative Court called for backdated concession fees of about Bt1.7 billion to be paid. iTV was required to readjust its news-to-entertainment ratio from 50-50 to 70-30.
Julayuth revealed his office's intentions after meeting with mediators and iTV representatives including Suparanant Tanvirach, the company's finance director.
At the mediation, Suparanant complained the fines were too high and sought the appointment of a new arbitration panel.
"It is agreed that right now iTV must stick to the Central Administrative Court ruling, which said the company must pay the fines immediately. Thus, the PM's Office will exercise its right to file legal action within a year," Julayuth said.
He said a mediating committee also explored the possibility the Supreme Administrative Court could overturn the Central Administrative Court decision.
If the higher court agrees to the lower concession fees, then the PM's Office must return the extra amount to iTV, plus interest.
"This has been discussed at length. The mediating committee said this must be discussed with the Finance Ministry," Julayuth reported.
iTV is 53-per-cent owned by Shin Corp. Shin has been controlled by a group led by Singapore's state investment arm Temasek Holdings since January, when the family of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra disposed of its majority stake to Temasek.
The broadcaster has been on air for 11 years. It has a 30-year concession.
Julayuth said iTV informed the PM's Office it would pay a concession fee in its 11th operating year of Bt770 million.