June 30, 2012 00:00 By Watchiranont Thongtep
Airing matches via free-TV channels would put Kingdom in violation of international copyright rules, Civil Court says
After a marathon hearing yesterday, the Civil Court decided not to have the operators of the three free-TV channels, namely BEC’s ThaiTV3, the Royal Thai Army’s TV5 and MCOT’s ModernineTV, transmit unencrypted satellite signals broadcasting Euro 2012 matches to satellite TV receivers because this would violate international copyright law.
The hearing began on Tuesday after the Confederation of Consumer Organisations of Thailand and satellite TV viewers filed a complaint against GMM Grammy, the sole holder of the right to broadcast live Euro 2012 matches, and against the three free-to-air television channels. They asked the court to order the three free-to-air television channels to transmit unencrypted satellite signals carrying the live Euro 2012 matches to satellite TV receivers.
The confederation claimed that GMM Z, the satellite broadcasting unit of GMM Grammy, had to take responsibility for the more than 10 million viewers who were unable to watch the Euro 2012 matches because their television signal at home was being broadcast via satellite receivers. The confederation said this was a violation of basic consumer rights and called on GMM Grammy to provide Bt1,590 compensation for each of the 33 million individuals from 11 million households that were affected.
Meanwhile, Civil Court secretary Narat Imsuksri said yesterday that the decision was based on the benefit of both sides – the consumers and the businesses.
Under the Constitution’s Article 47, which rules that transmission frequencies for radio or television broadcasting and telecommunication are national resources for the public interest, free-to-air TV operators including ThaiTV3, TV 5 and Modernine TV must be responsible for public broadcasting services.
However, these TV operators cannot provide satellite TV broadcasting service to households with satellite receivers because they were only contracted to broadcast via analogue terrestrial signal. Yet, as a public broadcasting service provider, they should place more emphasis on the effect agreements with private companies would have on key audiences, Narat said.
The court also called on the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to implement new regulations as soon as possible in order to prevent such problems from recurring.
Narat added that the court’s decision was also based on the 2007 Constitution’s Articles 41 and 43. Article 41 is related to an individual’s property rights, while Article 43 is related to an individual’s liberty to engage in enterprise or an occupation that allows for free and fair competition. GMM Grammy’s business contract with the operators of the three free-to-air television channels and the ownership of the rights to broadcast the Euro 2012 tournament are protected by such laws.
Though more than 10 million households are left staring at black screens during the Euro 2012 tournament, which comes to an end early on Monday morning, others are able to watch the matches via traditional TV antennas or via GMM Z satellite TV receivers.
Narat said if the court ordered the operators of the free-to-air channels to do as requested by the plaintiffs, then they would be breaking their agreement with GMM Grammy, which is the holder of the rights to broadcast Euro 2012.
Besides, if they are allowed to transmit unencrypted signals via other satellite receivers, then the Euro 2012 rights owner, the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa), might cut off the live feed of the tournament because it could be stolen by neighbouring countries.
He said that the court understands that if this happens, everybody would be affected and Thailand’s reputation in relation to copyright and intellectual property protection would suffer further.