Content producers fear media monopoly
Big players could be allowed to run 3 types of commercial digital TV channels, say mid-sized firms
Medium-sized television-content providers wishing to participate in the licence auction for 24 commercial digital terrestrial TV channels have raised concern over media monopoly by major companies if the regulator allows them to run three kinds of digital channels.
The issue surfaced when the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) proposed two options for the limit on the number of channels per broadcaster.
The first is that each TV broadcaster would be allowed to operate a maximum of two channels, covering only children's and variety shows.
The other option is that each broadcaster could run a maximum of three channels: one each for children, news and variety programming.
On behalf of newcomers and medium-sized TV operators, Chalakorn Panyashom, vice president for creative marketing at Workpoint Entertainment, said his company supported the first option.
However, he said the NBTC should allow those operators to select the types of programme to be aired on the two channels, without being restricted to variety and kids' shows.
Nation Broadcasting Corp president Adisak Limprungpatanakij, who agrees with Chalakorn on flexibility of programming choice, said his company wanted more information related to the spectrum auction, such as starting-bid prices, the cost of network leasing and a subsidy scheme for customers.
He also expressed concern over intense competition in the upcoming bidding for five digital-TV channels specifically for news programmes, as there would be many potential players going for a limited number of licences.
Sura Gaintanasilp, executive vice president of Modernine TV operator MCOT, said the five news channels would be sought by existing analog terrestrial-TV channels; leading newspaper publishers such as Thai Rath, Nation Multimedia Group, Daily News and Post Publishing; and satellite-TV operators such as Voice TV and Spring News.
He suggested, therefore, that there should be more flexibility in the maximum number of news channels to be run by commercial digital-terrestrial-TV operators.
"The option that offers a maximum of two licences is acceptable," Sura said, adding that if any commercial TV channels were available after the spectrum auction, those broadcasters that already had two licences for commercial digital channels should the have right to join another auction and grab another licence.
However, a number of major TV broadcasters and content producers still wish to have three categories of commercial digital TV licences, for children's, news and variety programmes. MCOT, Bangkok Broadcasting and Television, GMM Grammy and telecommunications giant InTouch are among the companies that prefer this scenario.
Facing such conflicts, Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting committee and the subcommittee on the transition to digital terrestrial TV broadcasting, said his sub-panel needed to convene again with all those interested in licences for commercial digital terrestrial TV channels before making a final decision by end of the month.
He believes the regulator's second option, for three channels per operator, would result in the licensing of TV operators that were ready to develop quality content, which would attract advertising and drive the industry's growth.
They could utilise their own content, production facilities and technology to achieve lower operating costs if they had three channels, he added.