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NBTC demands changes to broadcast rules

The chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) says its “must have” and “must carry” rules need to be amended to be more practical following the World Cup fiasco.

The must have rule requires companies holding broadcast rights for seven sporting events, including the World Cup, to allow the programming to air on free TV. The must carry rule requires the programmes aired on free TV to be broadcast on any platform without conditions, including internet protocol TV (IPTV).

Last month the NBTC contributed 600 million baht from its development fund to help the cash-strapped Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) come up with the 1.4 billion baht needed to pay for the broadcast rights to the tournament.

True Corporation, which SAT granted the exclusive rights for the tournament’s broadcast including on IPTV and over-the-top platforms, railed against other IPTV operators airing the matches, saying they hould not be encroaching on its turf.

On Nov 26, True won an injunction from the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, and IPTV subscribers’ screens went blank. Now an estimated 1 million households with IPTV have blank screens when they attempt to watch World Cup matches.

Dr Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, chairman of the NBTC, said the rules have to be adjusted to reflect the reality of the business, while taking into account the impact on society and public benefits.

The World Cup is the most-watched sports programme among Thais and the tournament is usually driven by businesses, which is different from other sporting events under the rules, he said.

“Personally, I think the NBTC should not interfere too much with programmes that can be driven by commercial activities,” said Dr Sarana.

The NBTC expects to begin studying amendment of the rules early next year, with a resolution in 2023.

On Dec 8, the NBTC demanded the return of 600 million baht from SAT, which it said failed to adhere to their memorandum of understanding (MoU) on World Cup broadcasts, in line with the must have and must carry rules.

The regulator said it would petition the Central Administrative Court to enforce the refund if SAT failed to return the money within 15 days.

Dr Sarana said SAT indicated it was “desperate” in its negotiations with the NBTC about financial support for World Cup broadcasts.

The NBTC’s MoU conditions made clear they include the must carry rule, he said. The regulator did not know SAT would sign a separate MoU with another entity.

When asked about the rules interpretation, Dr Sarana said the rules had never been challenged in the courts. He said the NBTC wanted to support SAT for the public’s benefit.

“The NBTC tried to handle the situation with the utmost care,” said Dr Sarana.

“We cannot answer for the SAT as to whether it was trying to exploit a loophole.”

Despite providing financial support for SAT, the NBTC’s rules have been heavily criticised, he said.

“The NBTC worked for the public benefit by complying with the existing rules. We accept some mistakes were made, but they were not entirely caused by us,” said Dr Sarana.

SAT may choose to terminate the MoU with True as a solution, he said. Bangkok Post

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