COMMERCIAL DIGITAL TV
Starting bid 'should not exceed Bt3 bn'
Preliminary starting bids for the 24 commercial digital terrestrial TV channels that will go on the block this year should not exceed Bt3 billion, according to a study team hired by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission.
A source from study team at the economics faculty of Chulalongkorn University, which is working closely with the NBTC's subcommittee on TV broadcasting competition, revealed yesterday that according to the study, a licence for a standard-definition (SD) variety channel could cost between Bt702 million and Bt2.85 billion. A licence for a news channel could cost between Bt274 million and Bt2.35 billion and a children's channel could be licensed for between Bt40 million and Bt2.19 billion.
The cost of a licence for a high-definition (HD) variety channel would range from Bt3 billion to Bt15.68 billion.
Under the broadcasting master plan, the NBTC intends five SD channels for news programmes, five HD channels for children, and 10 SD and four HD channels for variety programmes.
These preliminary price ranges will be submitted to a meeting of the broadcasting committee next Monday for approval. If the committee agrees, the proposal on preliminary prices will go to public hearing soon.
After the public hearing, the NBTC will begin arranging the spectrum auction for commercial digital TV, to be held in the final quarter of the year.
The study also found that digital-TV operators must pay an additional Bt40 million to Bt60 million a year in network leasing fees.
Some content providers that want to use the digital TV broadcasting platform have raised concerns over such high fees. They argued that the NBTC should attract new broadcasters with affordable minimum bids and annual licence fees, to leave them enough resources to develop quality TV programmes.
Suphachai Chearavonont, president and chief executive officer of True Corp, which wants to join the spectrum auction, said small and medium-sized firms might find it difficult to bid for the licences if the prices are too high.
NBTC commissioner Thawatchai Jittrapanun, who chairs the subcommittee on TV broadcasting competition, agreed. He said yesterday that not only were the network leasing fees for digital TV broadcasting too high, those for network rental for satellite and cable TV platforms would be additional costs for them.
Thawatchai noted that under the NBTC's "must carry" rule to prevent a repeat of last year's black-screen problem during a major sporting event, satellite and cable TV must carry free-TV programmes, including those offered by the 12 proposed public digital TV channels and selected channels from 24 commercial digital TV channels. This meant additional costs for new digital TV broadcasters as well, he said.