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Digital TV operators rush for the exits


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Almost a quarter of the industry want to return licences under junta’s offer

Six commercial digital TV broadcasters announced on Friday that they are returning the seven licences they hold to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) – a move that will leave about 1,000 people without a job, the regulator’s secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said.

Returning the licences are Bright TV for its Bright TV Channel 20, Voice TV for Voice TV Channel 21, MCOT for MCOT Family Channel 14, and BEC World’s Channel 3 for its Family Channel 13 and 3SD Channel 28. Also exiting the crowded market are Spring News Television Co Ltd, which is returning its licence for Spring News Channel 19, and Nation Multimedia Group’s Spring 26 Co Ltd, which will hand back its licence for Spring 26 Channel (formerly known as NOW26 channel).

Takorn estimated that each of the operators giving up their licences is in line for compensation amounting to half of what they had paid in the first four instalments.

The licence for Spring News Channel 19 was won with a bid of Bt1.3 billion, while those for Spring 26 Channel (NOW26) cost Bt2.2 billion; Voice TV Channel 21 Bt1.3 billion; MCOT Family Channel 14 Bt660 million; Bright TV Channel 20 Bt1.29 billion; Channel 3’s Family Channel 13 Bt666 million; and 3SD Channel 28 Bt2.28 billion.

Thailand has 22 commercial digital TV channels in a saturated market.

After informing the regulator of their decisions to return the licences, the operators must continue to air programmes until their requests are approved by the NBTC board. The board will also specify the dates when they can stop their operations.

Those operators returning the licences will have to submit to the NBTC within 60 days the documents that can support their requests for compensation. If they fail to do so, the NBTC will extend the period for them by a further 30 days.

Voice TV chief executive officer Mekin Petchplai said in a statement on Friday that the company would continue in the broadcasting business but on other platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.

After the return of the Spring 26 channel, Nation Multimedia Group (NMG) will have only one digital television channel, Nation TV Channel 22, which offers news programming.

NMG chief executive officer Somchai Meesen said that the company would focus on creating quality news content, which is its core business, for provision on all platforms.

MCOT advised the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) on Friday that its board meeting on May 10 resolved to notify the NBTC of its intention to return the licence to operate the MCOT Family Channel 14.

Aside from this channel, |MCOT operates the MCOT high-definition (HD) Channel 30.

Channel 3, in addition to Family Channel 13 and 3SD Channel 28, operates the high-definition (HD) Channel 33.

Friday was the deadline given by the NBTC for companies to declare their intentions to ditch the licences.

The offer for the operators to return the licences comes under the relief measures announced by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) last month in a bid to ease financial burdens of the digital TV licence holders and telecoms firms operating on the 900MHz spectrum.

The junta’s relief measures also require that the NBTC waive the remaining licence upfront payments for the fifth and sixth instalments for all broadcasters.

The NBTC will cover the network rental fees for all digital TV licence holders for the remainder of their licence term of nine and a half years.

Takorn said he has urged the operators to compensate the 1,000 or so employees who would lose their jobs after the return of the licences. “As the companies are to gain compensation from the authorities, they should allocate some of these amounts to the affected workers beyond that required by the labour law,” he said.

Four professional media organisations on Friday issued a statement that the TV operators should pay fair compensation to the workers made redundant

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