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NBTC may allow delay in the payment of licence fee instalment (The Nation)

20-04-2015

NBTC may allow delay in the payment of licence fee instalment

THE National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) might grant a request by terrestrial digital TV operators to postpone their payments of the second instalment of the upfront licence fee - worth almost Bt8.2 billion in total - by a year to help them cope with the unfavourable economic climate.

An NBTC source said that the Finance Ministry recently told the regulator that it was within the NBTC's authority to consider postponing the payment until next May.

NBTC broadcasting committee chairman Natee Sukonrat said that he had yet to see the ministry's reply, but if it did say that his board would consider the matter and forward the reply to the NBTC board for consideration.

Natee personally thinks that the watchdog should grant the operators' request, as it should understand that they have felt the pinch from the economic situation.

The watchdog's broadcasting committee had consulted with the ministry to determine if it was within the licensing body's purview to make the postponement

The committee needed to do that as the junta last year ordered the NBTC to pass all proceeds from the digital TV licence auction to the state coffers.

It transferred the first instalment of the upfront licence fee to its fund to supporting telecom and broadcasting research and development. The broadcasting committee held the licence auction in December 2013 that resulted in it granting 24 licences to 17 bid winners in April 2014. The total value of the licence payment was Bt50.86 billion.

The bid winners paid the first instalment of the upfront licence fee - worth Bt11.16 billion - in May 2014.

The committee divides the upfront fee into two parts: The minimum upfront amount it should gain from the auction, and the amount exceeding the minimum amount. The bid winners are required to pay the minimum amount within four years - 50 per cent in the first year, 30 per cent in the second year, 10 per cent in the third year and 10 per cent in the fourth year.

They have to finish paying the exceeded amount within six years - 10 per cent in each of the first two years and 20 per cent in each of the following four years. The operators of all 24 digital TV channels will pay a combined Bt8.12 billion in upfront fees in the second instalment payment, of which Bt4.55 billion is the minimum fee.

They are scheduled to pay the total third instalment (the combined minimum and exceeded fee) of Bt8.65 billion next year, Bt8.65 billion in the fourth year, Bt7.13 billion in the fifth year and Bt7.13 billion in the sixth year.

Digital TV operators also asked the NBTC to waive the annual licence fee for five years.