June 21, 2014 00:00 By Usanee Mongkolporn,
Junta expected to give nod to Bt1,000 subsidies for access to digital-TV programmes
ALL HOUSEHOLDS are likely to receive free vouchers to purchase set-top box equipment for accessing digital-TV programmes by September, as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) is soon expected to unlock the broadcast regulator’s plan to give away the vouchers.
Takorn Tantasit, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said this was likely to happen after meeting yesterday with the NCPO committee tasked with following up on and inspecting state spending.
He said the committee fully understood the voucher plan and had told the regulator it could go ahead, pending the upcoming public hearing on the plan.
The panel was yesterday going to propose to the NCPO board that the plan should be approved, he added.
The NCPO on Tuesday instructed the NBTC to suspend four projects, including the planned voucher giveaway, until some doubts regarding the projects were cleared up. It says it wants to ensure transparency in these and other state projects.
Takorn said he would propose for the NBTC board’s consideration on Monday that the public hearing on the voucher plan be held within 15 days in the Northern, Northeastern, Central and Southern regions.
Questions over the voucher project’s transparency arose after the NCPO received complaints from the Independent Organisation for the Protection of Public Utilities and digital-TV broadcasters about the proper value of the vouchers, and their appropriate use.
Under the plan, the NBTC will subsidise the value of the vouchers. Each will be valued at Bt1,000, and one will be given away to each of the Kingdom’s roughly 25 million households.
Each voucher can be used to purchase a complete set of one of the following: a digital-TV receiver, a cable or satellite-TV set-top box, or a television set with built-in digital TV tuner.
Over the course of this week, the Radio-Television Broadcasting Professional Federation and digital terrestrial-TV operators have urged the commission to resume plans to distribute the vouchers nationwide as soon as possible after the junta clears the project.
Regarding the distribution of the vouchers, there is still disagreement among parties as to whether the NBTC should allow people to use them to buy cable and satellite-TV set top boxes, instead of only a digital-TV set-top box or television set with digital-TV function.
Some also question whether the Bt1,000 voucher value is appropriate.