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MCOT told to complete digital network roll-out

THE BROADCASTING REGULATOR will soon warn MCOT that it needs to speed up completion of the first phase of the national digital TV network roll-out in the last three provinces.

Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the broadcasting committee under the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, said yesterday that MCOT had reported to the NBTC that it had finished wiring up only eight provinces out of the 11 that were put under a June deadline.

MCOT has to finish the remaining provinces - Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Sing Buri - within 30 days after receiving the committee's written notice or risk a fine. According to the NBTC, among the four licensed digital-network operators, only the Army and Thai PBS met the deadline. The Public Relations Department has not yet started its network installation, claiming that its investment budget is pending government approval.

The NBTC expects that MCOT will finish the three provinces by month's end.

Any delay could hamper the commission's plan to distribute vouchers to households to buy a digital TV set-top box or digital TV set.

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the NBTC, said the regulator expected to start mailing out the vouchers to households in the first 11 provinces on September 15. However, the military's ruling National Council for Peace and Order has yet to give its nod to the voucher scheme.

The broadcasting committee also acknowledged the Central Administrative Court's recent decision not to issue an injunction against the NBTC's enforcement of a regulation defining free TV channels as only those on the new digital platform. Bangkok Entertainment Co, the operator of the Channel 3 analog channel, had petitioned the court for the injunction.

The NBTC regulation means Channel 3 can air only six minutes of commercials per hour on pay TV, instead of the 12 minutes per hour allowed before. This regulation took effect on May 25, but the watchdog extended the grace period for Channel 3 until September 1.

The court reasoned that the regulation did not affect the public or Channel 3's analog concession from MCOT at the present time.


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