Thai TV agrees to keep its digital channels on air (The Nation)


Thai TV agrees to keep its digital channels on air (The Nation)

After mediation by the Central Administrative Court, Thai TV Co yesterday accepted the broadcast regulator's suggestion that it continue running its two digital television channels for three months as it seeks either a content partner or a co-investor.

"We are satisfied with the results from a friendly talk with the regulator. My company would like to make it known that we are ready to welcome a new content partner or co-investor who could afford a huge investment and with expertise in creating and producing content for our media outlets," Pantipa Sakulchai, president of Thai TV, said yesterday.

Before attending the hearing at the court, Pantipa had insisted that the company's two digital TV stations - the Thai TV news channel and Loca family channel - would be off the air at midnight July 25. But after the negotiation, she said both TV stations would continue to be aired until the end of October.

She said that during those three months, each channel would cost about Bt20 million per month on the operations and content production.

Colonel Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the broadcasting committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said his panel would also extend the deadline for payment of the second instalment of the company's up-front licence fees for three months.

Supinya Klangnarong, a member of the broadcasting committee who also attended the hearing, said: "During the extended period, we won't seize the bank guarantee posted by Bangkok Bank."

She said a previous order to do so by the NBTC's administration was issued without the approval of the broadcasting committee.

Pantipa and her legal team have claimed that the NBTC failed to deliver on its promise to transition the country smoothly to the digital-TV era as written in the commission's terms of reference when the it invited bidders to join the auction of 24 commercial digital-TV licenses.

In a statement, Thai TV charged that the NBTC had promised to give away coupons towards the purchase of digital receivers to 22.5 million households, but only 14 million coupons were actually provided.

The company said the broadcasting industry had suffered from delays in a public relations campaign to raise awareness about terrestrial-based digital television.

Pantipa insisted that her company had conducted a proper feasibility study before entering the country's first digital-TV licence auction in late 2013 and prepared a good strategy to run its digital-TV business.

"With my 38 years' experience in the entertainment and broadcasting industry, I do believe that what we have done and what we are doing are the right thing," she stressed.

Some time ago, Thai TV announced that it had decided to give up its digital-TV business and that it wanted to relinquish its licences for the Thai TV news channel and Loca family channel. The company cited difficulties in operations, intense competition and lack of support from the NBTC for the transition from analog to the digital era.According to local newspapers, Pantipa insisted that both Thai TV and Loca would end their services on the digital terrestrial platform by Sunday.

The company also refused to pay the second and remaining four instalments of the up-front licence fees and the annual licence fees to the commission.

Last month, Thai TV Co filed a petition to the Central Administrative Court for a temporary injunction to protect its bank guarantee issued by Bangkok Bank from seizure by the NBTC.