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NBTC to appeal after court backs RS right to World Cup

Natee Sukonrat

Natee Sukonrat

'Must have' rule ruled out of plan to allow only 22 matches on free TV

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court against a lower court's ruling yesterday suspending the NBTC's "must have" rule in the case of World Cup soccer matches.

The Central Administrative Court did not shoot down the "must have" rule altogether, but said it could not be applied against RS's plan to allow the broadcast of only 22 of the 64 World Cup matches on free TV, as RS International Broadcasting and Sport Management had secured the sole broadcast rights before the rule took effect.

The NBTC has 30 days to file its appeal.

Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC broadcasting committee, said his panel wanted all Thais to be able to watch all 64 matches on free television. It has taken the position that the "must have" rule will remain in effect unaltered until the dispute with RS is resolved.

RS secured the World Cup broadcasting rights on September 12, 2005, and the "must have" rule took effect in January last year.

RS's share price yesterday closed at Bt8.65, up 2.98 per cent.

The soccer tournament in Brazil will run from June 12 to July 13. RS has selected 22 of the matches for free-to-air broadcast on Channel 7, while all 64 will be shown on its pay-TV service, using a special set-top box that is to be made available today.

Under the must-have rule, holders of broadcasting rights to seven sports spectaculars - the Southeast Asian Games, Asean Para Games, Asian Games, Asian Para Games, Olympic Games, Paralympics and the Fifa World Cup Final - must allow them to be aired on free-TV channels as well as on their own media platforms.

Last April, RS petitioned the Central Administrative Court to issue an injunction against the rule on the grounds that RS International had secured the World Cup broadcasting rights for Thailand before the rule went into effect.

In another complication to RS's plans, an NBTC source said the commission's office had yet to approve the importation by Infosat of the World Cup boxes for RS to distribute, as it is not yet clear if the boxes are for pay-TV or free-TV service.

Meanwhile, the broadcasting committee yesterday officially approved the granting of 23 of the 24 licences for commercial terrestrial TV channels on April 25. The only exception was RS, pending its submission of new digital programming schedules in consideration of yesterday's court ruling.


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