NBTC takes its cue from NCPO orders

Economy June 02, 2014 00:00

By Usanee Mongkolporn
The Nation

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New junta measures give the watchdog much-needed bite to achieve its agenda

Measures aimed at TV broadcasting by the National Council for Peace and Order has benefited the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) by helping it put the industry in order.
One measure allows free-to-air satellite TV network providers to air only six analog channels and digital channels (except Voice TV’s digital channel, which is still banned by the NCPO).
If they want to air free satellite programmes, they have to apply for pay-TV licences from the NBTC.
Vice versa, if free-to-air satellite channel operators want their programmes aired on satellite networks they are also required to apply for a pay-TV licence.
The measures seem to fit well with the NBTC’s intention to have only free digital content and pay-TV content in Thailand as that is easier to control than free-to-air satellite content, which is prone to offering inappropriate and politically provocative programmes.
Since being established two years ago, the watchdog has tried to put free-to-air satellite content in order but hardly made a ripple due to operator protests.
The NBTC broadcasting committee will take this opportunity to award pay-TV licences to operators for offering what is deemed to be appropriate content with no provocative programmes, said committee chairman Natee Sukonrat. 
The committee will also take into account the NCPO’s opinions when awarding licences, Natee said, adding that it will be difficult to grant licences to operators if their content does not comply with the NCPO standards.
The broadcasting committee granted pay-TV licences to 73 free-to-air satellite operators on Thursday, while another 90 applications will be considered today. There are around 400 free-to-air satellite operators in Thailand.
Three out of the 22 satellite networks have applied for pay-TV licences, including PSI Holdings, the country’s largest satellite network.
Nirand Tangpiroontham, managing director of major free-to-air satellite network Infosat, said the company was still considering whether to apply for a pay-TV licence.
Before the May 22 coup, the military invoked the martial law, which resulted in the operations of 14 satellite channels, plus Voice TV’s digital channel, being temporarily suspended.
The military cited the need to maintain law and order as the reason, with three channels still suspended.
The NCPO pulled all TV channels off the air shortly after the coup before allowing them to resume operations. 
It also allowed 13 foreign news channels to resume airing on TrueVisions network. 
However, an NBTC source said that TrueVisions was keeping them off air out of concern the content might violate the NCPO’s conditions.