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NBTC gets backing for Bt1,000 vouchers

Value should be set at Bt690 instead, say consumer-protection groups

Most people attending the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's first public hearing on the plan to give away vouchers to buy digital-TV equipment voiced support that the value of each voucher should be Bt1,000.

However, some representatives from consumer-protection groups said the amount was too high, and that it should be Bt690 instead.

The NBTC held the first of four regional hearings in Chiang Mai yesterday. The others will be held in Songkhla today, in Khon Kaen on Tuesday, and in Bangkok on Thursday.

Some manufacturers of digital-TV set top boxes said they supported the idea that the vouchers should be used to purchase only digital-TV set-top boxes.

Under the NBTC's existing plan, the voucher value is Bt1,000, and one will be given away to each of the Kingdom's roughly 25 million households.

Each voucher can be used to purchase a complete set of one of the following: a digital-TV receiver, a cable- or satellite-TV set-top box, or a television set with built-in digital-TV tuner.

Kematat Paladesh, president of digital-TV operator PPTV, said he wanted the NBTC to hasten the distribution of Bt1,000 vouchers to all households, which would help expand the viewer base for digital-TV channels.

However, the regulations should state that the vouchers should only be used to acquire digital-TV set-top boxes in the first year, before covering satellite- and cable-TV set-top boxes in the following years, he said.

During the hearing, some groups of digital-TV operators spoke in support of the idea that the vouchers only be used to buy digital-TV boxes, while others backed the NBTC's plan that they be used to purchase any one of the of the choices of equipment currently set out in the plan.

At a separate event yesterday, the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) suggested that the NBTC should only distribute the vouchers to specific groups of people, such as the disabled and/or the underprivileged.

Moreover, according to an article by TDRI president Somkiat Tangkitvanich, the vouchers should only be used for buying digital terrestrial TV set-top boxes, and should not include cable- and satellite-TV boxes.

He said those households with cable- or satellite-TV boxes could already view digital terrestrial TV channels on the cable-and satellite platforms, under the NBTC's must-carry rule.

Under the rule, cable- and satellite-TV platform providers must carry only content from public and commercial digital terrestrial TV channels.


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