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Channel 3 to seek court protection

Bangkok Entertainment, the operator of the Channel 3 analog TV channel, will today file a lawsuit against the broadcasting regulator in a bid to keep airing programmes through the pay-TV platform.

Surin Kittayaphonghun , executive vice president of BEC World - the parent company of Bangkok Entertainment, said that the operator would seek Administrative Court protection from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's (NBTC) order.

"We would like to ask the court to protect our viewers, so that our viewers can continue watching the analog channel in all platforms as usual," Surin said.

The NBTC earlier ordered the termination of the broadcasting of analog programmes on the digital pay-TV platform after May 25.

Under the "Must Carry" rules, pay-TV operators are allowed to carry only free digital TV channels. If Channel 3 analog is to be on the platform, the operator needs to get a pay-TV licence from NBTC.

Moreover, the analog channel, aired under a MCOT concession, can contain up to 12 minutes of advertisements per hour, against six minutes allowed for the pay-TV platform. The analog channel can be viewed through a conventional antenna, pay-TV cable networks, pay satellites and a free-to-air satellite platform.

Out of 25 million households nationwide, 36 per cent use an antenna to watch TV while the rest have non-subscription and subsription-based services from satellite and cable TV networks.

The NBTC order covers True Visions, a cable TV operator that serves 2.4 million subscribers, who constitute a major portion of viewers of the analog channel.

Stock analysts said BEC had four options, including:

It could challenge in court the NBTC's authority to force pay-TV operators to cut advertising to six minutes per hour. The verdict would be anybody's guess but the lawsuit may delay the enforcement of the regulation for several months.

BEC could simultaneously broadcast the programmes from the analog channel on its digital channels. Then the channels broadcast by free cable/satellite networks could air up to 12 minutes of advertisements an hour.

This would help the channel maintain advertising revenue. In this case, the channel would be subjected to additional regulatory fees as digital TV advertising revenue is subjected to a 4 per cent fee.

Stock analysts estimated that this extra regulatory fee would not exceed 10 per cent of the channel's bottom line. They also commented that this option will be the least damaging.


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