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RS, NBTC air rival views on 'must have'

World Cup boxes 'can't be sold' during appeal

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission insisted yesterday that RS was still bound by the "must have" rule and would not be able to sell its World Cup set-top boxes while a court decision suspending the rule in RS's case is being appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court.

The "must have" rule mandates that several key sporting events, including the Fifa World Cup finals that begin in June, must be made available on free television. However, RS has fought against the rule in the case of the World Cup, arguing that the firm secured the Thailand broadcasting rights to the soccer tournament well before "must have" came into effect.

The Central Administrative Court agreed, and ruled that RS was within its rights to allow the broadcast of only 22 of the 64 World Cup matches on free TV. But the NBTC on Monday said it would appeal against that verdict.

Natee Sukolrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting committee, held a press conference yesterday to react to a separate news conference held by RS on the same day, at which the company affirmed that it would stick to its initial plan of promoting World Cup set-top boxes.

"The NBTC has 30 days [until April 30] to make the appeal. So during this period, the 'must have' rule is still in effect, and the NBTC will make notice of the rule's existence during the appeal period on its website and ask all involved parties, including RS, to respect the rule," he said.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said RS could not launch any promotional campaign to sell its World Cup set-top boxes until the final verdict of the Supreme Administration Court is made.

"The NBTC has the right to warn, to fine, or even to abort the licences of the set-top-box suppliers or distributors if they continue to promote the World Cup boxes," he said.

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

Meanwhile, RS chief executive officer Surachai Chetchotisak said at the firm's news conference yesterday that the Central Administrative Court verdict was a good sign for the company.

Its management direction will remain unchanged for the World Cup broadcasts. It will allow the broadcast of 22 matches on free TV, namely Channels 7 and 8. The opening and closing ceremonies, the semi-finals and the final match will be aired live for everyone in the country to watch.

RS is also offering another option for soccer fans who want to watch all 64 matches as well as reruns, special programmes, and exclusive highlights from Fifa, the international governing body of association soccer, available only on the World Cup Channel and accessible through the World Cup set-top box.

Surachai said the company would start selling the box this month, available at 7-Eleven stores and satellite-dish shops. Priced at Bt1,590, about a million boxes are expected to be sold.

RS still expects the revenue generated from the broadcasting-licence management of the World Cup to total Bt650 million, 80 per cent from sponsorship and the rest from sublicensing.

The company said the verdict of the Administrative Court affirmed that the "must have" rule was unfair to those who had acquired broadcast licenses before the announcement of the rule. The rule should be effective only from the date it was announced, and not retroactive. RS International Broadcasting and Sport Management, a company under RS that is the licensee of the live broadcast of World Cup matches, and is the complainant in this case, would be disadvantaged if the rule were enforced for this event, it argues. RS's share price yesterday closed at Bt8.70, up Bt0.50 or 0.58 per cent from Monday.


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