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Digital TV funds set for state coffers

Billions from NBTC auction to 'boost economy'; Bt200 billion more expected

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is set to transfer the Bt50.86 billion made from the auction of 24 digital TV licences to state coffers to help boost the economy, the watchdog's chairman Thares Punsri said yesterday.

The money had been earmarked to subsidise vouchers so households can buy digital TV set-top boxes and for the development of the sector.

The move came after a meeting yesterday between the NBTC, the National Council for Peace and Order's (NCPO) legal subcommittee and the Office of the Auditor General of Thailand (OAG).

The NCPO asked the NBTC if it could transfer the money to the state after the OAG sent a letter to the NCPO requesting that.

The OAG also asked the NCPO to dissolve the NBTC, citing its unlawful establishment, but Thares said there was no discussion on this issue yesterday.

"We would like to help improve the national economy. We have a lot of projects this year which may help boost the country's economy," he said.

"The transfer of such an amount to the state coffers is on the condition that the Finance Ministry will also have to handle the giving away of the free vouchers."

The NBTC auctioned the 24 digital TV licences last year. To date, just Bt11 billion of the Bt50.86 billion has been paid by licence winners. The rest will be paid over six years. Bt25 billion has been allocated to subsidise vouchers worth Bt1,000 each.

The vouchers will be distributed to 25 million households nationwide to buy one of the following: a digital TV set-top box, a TV with a digital system, a cable-TV or a satellite-TV box.

NBTC secretary general Takorn Tantasith said according to the Frequency Allocation Act, the NBTC could keep the upfront payment with the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for the Public Interest and allocate the funds to develop broadcasting services.

However, Takorn said the NCPO could overrule the Act at any time.

Bt200 bn more may be raised

In the past two years, the NBTC has obtained Bt41.625 billion from auctioning the 3G licences, which it passed on to the Finance Ministry.

Takorn said the NBTC had also informed the NCPO about its four projects that would generate around Bt200 billion in revenue for the country.

These include auctions of two 1800MHz licences in August and two 900MHz licences in November.

The NBTC board is scheduled to consider the voucher plan tomorrow. It is expected that the board will allow the commission to hold a public hearing on the voucher process.

Yesterday representatives of 12 digital TV channels submitted a letter against the NBTC plan to distribute the vouchers to buy satellite set-top boxes and cable TV set-top boxes, saying that cable TV and satellite TV operators are their rivals.

They said that given the NBTC is using the upfront payments to subsidise the scheme, the vouchers should be used to buy only digital TV set-top boxes or TV with an embedded digital TV functions.

The 12 channels are Nation TV, Now (of Nation Group), two MCOT channels, two Thai TV channels, Spring News TV, PPTV, Amarin TV, Mono 29, Bright TV and Voice TV.

Meanwhile, other digital-TV operators plan to show their support for the NBTC broadcasting panel's plan tomorrow.


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