Thailand’s free FIFA World Cup broadcast in doubt following rule change


The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has excluded the FIFA World Cup tournament from its “must have” rule in a unanimous decision by the board on Tuesday.

Since 2013, the rule has dictated that rights holders must live-broadcast seven major sports tournaments – the World Cup, Olympic Games, Paralympics, Southeast Asian Games, ASEAN Paralympics, Asian Games, and Asian Para Games – for free on TV and other platforms.

However, NBTC board members voted 7:0 to exclude the World Cup, leaving it up to private broadcast rights holders to decide whether the tournament should be aired for free or not in Thailand.

The board reportedly decided that since no Thailand team had ever qualified for the World Cup, there was no reason to support free broadcasts with the NBTC fund.

The fund’s purpose is to ensure equal access to major sporting events for everyone in Thailand including those who cannot afford pay-TV.

The exclusion raises questions about whether viewing the World Cup should be considered a basic right for all.

It also paves the way for excluding other sports from the rule, including Olympic disciplines in which no Thai athletes are competing.

Broadcasting sports that have commercial value but no Thai athletes should be the responsibility of the private sector, the NBTC said.

Pirongrong Ramasoota, a member of the NBTC's television committee, said the broadcasting landscape had changed in the decade since the “must have” rule was enacted, with the FIFA World Cup now a completely commercialised competition.

The exclusion comes after Thai broadcasts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar were threatened by a conflict over funding between the NBTC and Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT).

The NBTC finally agreed to pay 600 million baht to meet the 1.4-billion-baht broadcast-rights fee paid by the SAT.

However, the conflict led to a row over how many matches should be allocated to True Corporation – which had contributed money to purchase the broadcast rights – and how many to other broadcasters.

The Thailand national football team are currently taking part in the qualification competition for the 2026 FIFA World Cup to be held in North America.