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Channel 3 faces blackout

Sep 08. 2014
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Watchdog orders satellite and cable operators to stop analog broadcast soon; BEC still can appeal decision

The conflict between the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission’s broadcasting committee and the operator of Channel 3 analog programmes has escalated – with legal suits lodged and talk of counter-suits.

It followed the committee’s decision yesterday to order cable and satellite TV networks to stop broadcasting Bangkok Entertainment Co’s (BEC) programmes within 15 days. 
Three out of five broadcasting commissioners – Supinya Klangnarong, Thawatchai Jittrapanun and Peerapong Manakit – voted for the shutdown.
Cable and satellite TV operators said that they must comply with such a decision and would prepare measures to minimise the impact on Channel 3 viewers. But they would prefer that BEC and the committee solve the problem through talks so Channel 3 could still air on their platforms.
One major advertising agency said that the decision would be lead to industry chaos. 
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said that the BEC could ask the NBTC’s 11-member board to hold a special meeting to look into yesterday’s decision by citing that it was unfair.
He said he expects to get the committee’s official decision within seven days and then he would forward it to cable and satellite operators. 
BEC yesterday filed a criminal suit against Supinya on the grounds of alleged malfeasance, defamation, and a breach of the Computer Crimes Act. It also filed suits against Thawatchai and Peerapong for alleged malfeasance.
The cases are in connection to the commissioners’ recent comments on BEC’s decision not to simulcast its analog programmes on the digital channels of its sister company, BEC-Multimedia.
BEC’s legal team said the filings were an attempt to protect the company’s legal rights.
Supinya said that she was consulting with her legal team to consider a counter-suit, as the BEC lawsuit could be regarded as an attempt to stop the committee from ruling against the company. BEC filed the suits before the meeting.
Broadcasting committee chairman Natee Sukonrat said that the committee’s decision did not mean the case had reached a conclusion, as a connected case was still under the consideration of the Central Administrative Court. 
He said that the committee should also prepare measures to remedy the possible negative impact of its decision.
The committee convened yesterday to consider whether to allow cable and satellite operators to carry Channel 3 analog programmes on their platforms as they are now only allowed to carry free TV channels. According to the committee, digital TV channels are the only free channels.
BEC also informed the committee of its willingness to talk about the latter’s plan to have the company simulcast analog content as part of the NBTC’s move in the digital TV era and have all operators switch to it.
Cable and satellite operators said that while they would comply with the ruling, the NBTC must communicate and clarify the reasons behind its decision.
Somporn Teerachanapong, chief executive officer of PSI Holdings – the country’s largest satellite TV operator – said that the company must comply with the decision as it was just a business operator that obtained a licence from the watchdog. 
Somporn acknowledged that this decision could have a huge impact on viewers, who might not understand the situation, particularly in regard to the NBTC’s “must carry” rule.
The rule excludes existing analog TV channels as a free service after the start of terrestrial-based digital channels. 
Somporn said PSI Holdings would soon discuss the matter with the NBTC commissioners and seek a way to minimise the impact on audiences.
The company was preparing a programme to help its customers understand the key reason behind the decision.
In the meantime, Somporn said PSI, along with other leading cable and satellite operators and on behalf of the Association of National Cable and Satellite TV Platform Operators, would jointly organise a press conference to tackle the issue before Channel 3 was removed. 
A source from a major advertising agency acknowledged that both advertising agencies and advertisers would be hit hard if Channel 3 abruptly discontinued showing programmes on cable and satellite, which represent 70 per cent of 23 million households nationwide. 
The source said the unplanned shutdown of Channel 3, which was one of the most popular stations for advertisers, would be chaotic because her agency worked on deals with the station’s clients one-month in advance.
The source added that selling and buying advertising this month and next month would still progress as normal. But if there was an unexpected change, it would be hard to imagine how the agency would cope with the number of planned deals with clients.
However, she said it had prepared several solutions to the possible problem; first was refunding money. The second measure involved recommending clients allocate the money for other media channels.
In a separate matter, the committee is yet to grant the Television Pool of Thailand’s request for Channel 3 to be allowed to simultaneously televise the 17th Asian Games on both its analog channel and the Channel 33 digital (standard) channels operated by BEC-Multimedia. 

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