July 25, 2014 00:00 By Usanee Mongkolporn, Watchiran
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission yesterday set the value of the digital-television vouchers to be sent to 22.9 million households starting in September at Bt690 each.
The vouchers can be used towards the purchase only of a digital TV set or a digital set-top box.
The NBTC will spend Bt15.8 billion to subsidise the project as part of its policy to whisk Thailand into the full digital TV era.
Now that the final draft of the voucher plan has been approved by the regulator, it will be submitted to the National Council for Peace and Order after July 30, said Takorn Tantasit, secretary-general of the NBTC.
If the plan gets the green light from the junta, the NBTC is expected to start piloting the voucher distribution in September in four provinces – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Songkhla and Nakhon Ratchasima.
The distribution is expected to cover half of all eligible households nationwide this year and all eligible households within two years. About 20-30 per cent of the vouchers may be returned to the NBTC.
The vouchers will be mailed to households registered with the Provincial Administration Department as of March. Some state enterprises will be contracted to print them. The cost of mailing and printing is estimated at Bt150 million.
The scheme will be financed by the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for the Public Interest (BTFP).
The NBTC will forward all the up-front licence payments from the winners of the 24 commercial digital TV licences to the BTFP, consisting of Bt11 billion this year and Bt7 billion next year. The NBTC will set up working teams to carry out the scheme and handle complaints from consumers.
The original plan was to give away Bt1,000 vouchers to all households in the country to buy any of four options – a digital TV set-top box, a digital-compatible TV set, a satellite set-top box or a cable TV set-top box. The public hearings on the plan were recently concluded.
The Office of the Auditor-General advised the NBTC on Wednesday that the vouchers should be limited to digital TV set-top boxes and digital TVs.
The reasoning was that unlike digital TV operators, satellite and cable TV operators have not taken part in the auctions for commercial digital TV licences, so spending the digital TV operators’ up-front licence fees to subsidise the purchases of satellite and cable TV boxes would be unfair and could result in legal challenges.
The Office of the Auditor-General also believes that the vouchers should be given only to those confirming a need to acquire the boxes.