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Scramble to prevent blank TVs

TV screen is blank during Euro 2012 matches.

TV screen is blank during Euro 2012 matches.

Authorities will launch frantic efforts to help almost 7 million satellite TV households watch the Olympic Games, who might otherwise miss out on the quadrennial event beginning in London this month.

Fears of a repeat of the Euro 2012 controversy surfaced yesterday as the Television Pool of Thailand (TV Pool) and the National Broadcasting Television (former Channel 11) have the rights to broadcast this world sports event via terrestrial broadcasting only.

This will spark another heated controversy over copyrighted sports events after satellite TV households and TrueVisions subscribers were left with a blank screen during the recent Euro soccer tournaments due to copyright restriction by the rights holder. However, TrueVisions subscribers will be able to watch the Olympics.

Yesterday, TV Pool members held talks with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) along with representatives from major broadcasters at the NBTC's roundtable discussion to find a solution to the non-availability of upcoming copyrighted sports tournaments, including the Olympics and the Fifa World Cup.

The London Games will be held from July 27 to August 12. The media rights to broadcast this tournament are currently held by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU).

As a result of being a member of ABU, TV Pool received the rights for free-to-air terrestrial broadcasting, said Surin Krittayaphonphun, executive vice president of Bangkok Entertainment Company, the operator of ThaiTV3 and a member of TV Pool. TV Pool groups four major TV broadcasters - BEC's ThaiTV3, Royal Army's TV5, BBTV's Channel7 and MCOT's Modernine TV - to jointly acquire the rights to broadcast international sports events on a cost-sharing basis.

The selected live tournaments will be aired about six hours a day. However, TV Pool will negotiate with ABU and the IOC to allow TV Pool channels to transmit encrypted satellite signals to satellite TV receivers equipped with a conditioned access (CA) system to solve this problem, said Surin. "We strongly believe that both organisations will understand our reasons and the result should be more constructive," said Songapiratch Singhto, deputy director for planning and policy at TV5.

Meanwhile Wichit Aurareevorakul, executive adviser of the Thailand Cable TV Association, said that though cable TV operators will not be affected by this restriction, the Public Relations Department's National Broadcasting Television (NBT), another ABU member and part of the government, should negotiate with ABU and IOC to extend such rights to satellite TV receivers who normally watch free-TV via this platform. NBT will air other selected live tournaments about 12 hour a day.

Meanwhile, TrueVisions, which has acquired the rights for cable TV operators to broadcast this event will also offer its customers nine special channels. The NBTC commissioner for consumer protection, Supinya Klang-narong, said she would discuss this issue with PM's Office Minister Worawat Auapinyakul as his office is responsible for overseeing NBT.

To prevent such problems in the long run, the NBTC will work closely with the Commerce Ministry's Department of Intellectual Property to draft a law regarding copyright compulsory licensing.

Under compulsory licensing, an individual or company seeking to use a patent can do so without seeking the patent holder's consent, and pays the patent holder a set fee for the licence.

Supinya said the NBTC will also implement the rules and the regulations regarding minimum standard for set-top boxes that must be equipped with a CA system as soon as possible.

A representative from RS, which holds the rights to broadcast the Fifa World Cup 2014 in Brazil, said that all households would be able to watch this football tournament via any platforms.


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