THE Radio-Television Broadcasting Professional Federation and digital terrestrial TV operators yesterday urged the watchdog to resume plans to distribute digital TV vouchers nationwide as soon as possible after the junta ordered them to be put on hold.
“We would like to see this giveaway of vouchers to all households as a part of the policy to bring happiness back to all Thais,” said Jamnan Siritan Nunbhukdi, president of the federation. “We are also seeking an opportunity to meet with the National Council for Peace and Order to provide information about the benefits of this digital-TV voucher scheme and to explain the reasons behind the distribution along with the impact from the delay,” she said.
The federation sent an open letter to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) calling for the distribution of the Bt1,000 vouchers to all 25 million households.
The letter was acknowledged and signed by high-ranking executives from 22 digital terrestrial TV stations. Under the Bt25-billion scheme, the NBTC will give away vouchers for all households to buy a digital TV set-top box or a TV set with built-in digital TV tuner.
The scheme is aimed at accelerating the transition to the digital terrestrial TV era.
However, the NCPO on Tuesday ordered the NBTC to suspend this voucher scheme along with three other telecom-related projects for review by the NCPO. If the regulator can clear all doubts and the NCPO approves, the projects can proceed.
Takorn Tantasit, secretary-general of the NBTC, said the examination by the NCPO’s committee following up on and inspecting state spending was in response to several complaints from the Independent Organisation for the Protection of Public Utilities and concerns from some digital TV broadcasters over the scheme’s transparency.
All details of the voucher scheme have already been reported to the committee, he said.
However, Jamnan said the scheme was a key commitment made by the NBTC and a group of digital TV operators before the TV licence auction was staged last year.
“So we wish to see the NBTC resuming and beginning distributing free vouchers in July or August, as planned, to avoid any opportunity loss from the delayed distribution,” she said.
According to a recent feasibility study conducted by Bangkok Media and Broadcasting, the operator of the PPTV HD channel, the damage could reach Bt2.5 billion per month for all 24 digital terrestrial commercial TV broadcasters if the voucher distribution is delayed from its original schedule of next month.
Of the total opportunity losses, Bt1 billion would possibly come from seven variety TV operators for high definition (HD) service, Bt700 million from seven variety TV operators for standard definition service (SD), Bt500 million from seven SD TV news operators and Bt300 million from three SD children and family TV operators.
This estimate was based on fixed costs including instalments for the licence fee, and interest and operating costs.