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Community broadcasters should be able to acquire |sustainable revenue sources, seminar hears

The chairman of the broadcasting committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission believes that community radio and television stations should be allowed to seek more revenue to run their business sustainably.

"The concept of both digital terrestrial TV operators and radio TV stations for community-based purposes should be redefined to reflect the real situation," Natee Sukonrat said yesterday at a seminar on "Entering the Digital Terrestrial TV Era" at Chulalongkorn University.

About 4,700 community radio stations have received temporary licences from the NBTC, and it will soon award digital-TV licences for public-service broadcasters via a "beauty contest".

According to the Broadcasting Frequency Allocation Act, the NBTC reserves 20 per cent of available digital TV frequencies, translating into 12 TV channels, per service area for community broadcasters.

A community broadcaster may not generate revenue from airing commercials, but can accept donations, subsidies or other sources of revenue unrelated to commercials, according to a notification of the NBTC on licensing criteria and procedures for radio or TV broadcasting services.

Community broadcasters can receive a subsidy from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for Public Interest.

The NBTC is considering transferring the Bt50.86 billion proceeds from the auction of 24 digital TV licences to the state to help prime the economy. The money had been earmarked for subsidising vouchers to buy digital-TV set-top boxes and for developing the industry.

Subhead

A meeting of the NBTC, the National Council for Peace and Order's legal committee, and the Office of the Auditor-General agreed that the transfer would be on the condition that the Finance Ministry would also have to handle the distribution of the free vouchers to 25 million households nationwide to buy a digital TV set-top box, a digital TV, or a cable TV or satellite TV box.

Just Bt11 billion of the Bt50.86 |billion has been paid by licence winners. The rest will be paid over six years. A budget of Bt25 billion has been allocated to subsidise the Bt1,000 vouchers.

Natee also suggested methods to select digital-TV licensees after their current licences expire within 15 years.

The broadcasting committee could automatically renew the licences of those TV operators who have produced good-quality content for the public interest. It could also hold a new auction for digital frequencies held by poorly performing TV operators to select new players.


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