NBTC panel suggests four HD channels among 12 for auction
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) subcommittee on digital TV transition will propose to the watchdog to revise the format of 12 public digital TV channels to four high definition (HD) channels and eight standard definition (SD) channels, a change from the original 12 SD channels.Four HD channels will be allocated to the Royal Army, the Public Relations Department (PRD) and Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS) while the remainder will be open for new players.
A source in the subcommittee said yesterday that the proposal was reportedly to be submitted for the NBTC's broadcasting committee's approval in the coming week.
Under the proposal, the number of public TV channels are maintained at 12. After a technical test run by the Royal Army, MCOT and Thai PBS early this year, the watchdog found that there were available spectrum slots for 4 HD and 8 SD channels in a beauty contest for public TV licences. Under a beauty contest, applicants set out their cases for being awarded licences on the basis of the criteria set out in the invitation to bid.
The source said that the Royal Army and the PRD could hold their public digital TV licence for HD service until their analog terrestrial TV stations were ready to switch off. Meanwhile, Thai PBS will be automatically granted two permanent licences for two HD channels with new spectrum slots by the watchdog after it returns to the broadcasting regulator a spectrum being used currently by the station.
Other public TV channels in SD service are divided into eight categories: educational, science and cultural purposes; sports and public health promotion; national security; religious purpose; public safety and security; government and public relations; democracy promotion; and public service for childrens and disabled people. TV broadcasters in these categories will be granted four-year licences.
However, Supinya Klangnarong, the NBTC commissioner who is also chairperson of the subcommittee on consumer rights protection, said that she disagreed with the idea of the watchdog granting two HD channels to the Army, the operator of TV5, and the PRD which runs Channel 11. She added that this process seemed to be unfair to new players.
She suggested that the NBTC's broadcasting committee must set preconditions in the licensing process for both state media agencies.
She cited as an example Thai PBS, which has a code of conduct, editorial independence and public accountability. Both TV5 and Channel 11 must commit to restructure their organisation by creating a board of governors, an executive board and an audience council to guarantee public interest, she said. Meanwhile, they must commit to improve their TV programmes that reflect real public benefits, she added.
Also, in a beauty contest for the rest of the public TV channels, she suggested that the broadcasting committee must prepare scoring checklists for that process, for example, weighted scores for technical readiness, investment plan, and capability to develop TV programmes.
Public TV channels
1 TV5 (national security channel)
2 Channel 11 (government & public relations channel)
3 Thai PBS
4 Thai PBS Learning (kids and family channel)
5 Educational, science and cultural channel
6 Sports and public health promotion channel
7 National security channel
8 Religion channel
9 Public safety and security channel
10 Government and public relations channel
11 Democracy promotion channel
12 Children's channel (also for disabled people)