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BEC may use new HD channel to simulcast existing Channel 3

Now that it has secured a licence for a high-definition (HD) digital television channel, Bangkok Entertainment Company (BEC) is considering assigning it for simulcast of its current analog Channel 3, while its other two digital channels will offer totally different TV programmes.

At the spectrum auction of 24 commercial digital terrestrial TV licences held by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) last month, BEC-Multimedia clinched three licences - two variety channels, one in HD and the other in standard definition (SD), and a third channel for children's and family programming. Its total investment for the three licences was more than Bt6.47 billion.

Surin Krittayaphongphun, executive vice president of BEC, said yesterday that his company had earmarked two options to manage the three new channels. The first scenario is that BEC-Multimedia would continue to air Channel 3 on the old technology until the analog era comes to an end in five years' time. Meanwhile, the company would develop three new digital channels separately.

The other scenario is that the company would use an HD channel for simulcast of Channel 3 on the digital platform in parallel with the analog one. The other two digital channels would be designed and developed differently.

Former Channel 3 boss Pravit Maleenont said that in his opinion, TV programmes telecast on the SD variety channel must be different from those currently broad-

cast on Channel 3, by producing some specific content targeting niche audiences. The children's/family channel is intended to be positioned as a Disney or Hallmark channel.

Elaborating on the second option, Surin said he wanted to see more benefits offered by the NBTC’s broadcasting committee if the company decided to use an HD channel for the simulcast. For instance, the regulator could reduce or waive the annual licence fee for the simulcast channel.

Under the license-based regime, each TV broadcaster must pay the NBTC 2 per cent of gross income as an annual licence fee and another 2 per cent for the commission's research and development fund.

Though Surin declined a comment on how much more money would be spent on the three new digital channels in terms of production, new employment and equipment, BEC expects to see a return on its investment within five years.


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