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Digital set-top box vouchers expanded to include cable and satellite receivers

Around 22 million households will be able to use free vouchers towards the purchase of cable and satellite TV set-top boxes, instead of only digital TV boxes as originally planned, to access the upcoming terrestrial digital television channels.

A source of the broadcasting committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecomm-unications Commission (NBTC) said the committee came to that conclusion yesterday.

The committee had earlier planned to give out vouchers to help households nationwide buy the necessary equipment for the advent of digital TV. At first, these were to be limited to the purchase of combined digital-TV set-top boxes and antennas only.

The broadcasting committee will inform the operators of cable and satellite TV that if they want to sell their boxes under this voucher scheme, they will have to apply for NBTC licences to offer such boxes, the source added.

Moreover, they will have to rearrange their channel numbering for terrestrial digital TV channels according to the system determined by the broadcasting committee. For Channels 1 to 36, the first 12 are earmarked for the upcoming digital public channels and the rest for commercial digital channels. At present pay-TV operators arrange the first 10 channels as they please, followed by 36 digital channels.

In addition, pay-TV operators that want to join the voucher scheme must be able to provide both high- and standard-definition digital TV programmes via their boxes, which also must have a three-year warranty.

Pay-TV boxes, besides accessing the content provided specifically by the pay-TV operator, can also be used to view the new free digital channels, in the same way that these operators have been obliged to air free analog programmes by the NBTC's "must carry" rule.

The broadcasting committee will convene on Monday to finalise the value of the vouchers, expected to be Bt1,200. The panel is expected to start giving out the vouchers in July.


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