NBTC finds Channel 7 contracts illegitimate [Bangkok Post, Thailand]
(Bangkok Post (Thailand) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 30--A subcommittee of the national broadcasting regulator has ruled the broadcast concession between BBTV Channel 7 and the Royal Thai Army violates the public-private joint venture law.
The board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) will make a decision on the panel's suggestion today.
The 1992 Public-Private Joint Venture Act requires scrutiny of any public-private venture worth more than 1 billion baht.
The BBTV Channel 7 is free-to-air television channel in Thailand owned by Bangkok Broadcasting and Television Co.
A source at the NBTC said the subcommittee found the contracts for phases 4 and 5 of the concession in violation of the law because they had not been duly scrutinised even though the law was already in effect when they were signed.
The contracts, endorsed in 1998 by the then army chief Gen Chettha Thanajaro and Channel 7 head Surang Prempri, are worth 4.67 billion baht.
They involve the extension of the concession by 25 years to 2023.
However, potential damages caused by this blunder are likely to be limited.
An amendment to the law, which took effect on Apr 3 this year, allows parties to illegitimate contracts to revise them to be in compliance with the law without having to terminate the contracts.
In the Channel 7 case, a revision of the contracts to comply with the law means new clauses could be added to allow Channel 7 to return the spectrum to the NBTC before the contracts end if it so chooses without having to pay hefty penalty to the army.
This could help speed up the country's transition to digital TV.
Col Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting committee, said the regulator has a preliminary discussion with the army to allow Channel 7 to return its existing analogue frequency in advance.
If the TV station returns the frequency by 2018, it will not have to pay the concession fee for the remaining term.
"I, personally, believe Channel 7 will return the frequency before the contract ends as the local broadcasting industry is moving toward the digital era and no network operator would want to run two systems simultaneously," Col Natee said.
He said the NBTC is also in talks with Channel 9 for similar deals to Channel 7's.
The move will help with its plan to switch off the country's analogue terrestrial TV system by 2018 and shift to the digital broadcasting platform.
(c)2013 the Bangkok Post (Bangkok, Thailand)
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