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NBTC can continue to work despite NLA rejection of all board candidates

Apr 20. 2018
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By THE NATION

THE NATIONAL Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) has been allowed to continue its work and consider any key pending matters – including spectrum auction and spectrum reclamation – despite the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) rejecting all 14 NBTC final candidates for the seven-member body on Thursday.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith yesterday said the current board will consider at its meeting next Wednesday if it should go ahead with the auction of the 1800MHz and 900MHz licences as planned. It will also consider the draft rules to compensate the state spectrum holders if the NBTC reclaims their spectra and puts them up for auction.

Earlier, the board declined to consider whether to proceed with the auction of 1800MHz and 900MHz licences, pending the results of the selection of new commissioners on Thursday. 

The six-year term of the current commissioners ended on October 7 last year, but the new NBTC law allowed them to continue in the same capacity until they were replaced. The Council of State has replied to the watchdog that it can continue to perform its duties.

In a stunning development on Thursday at the NLA’s closed-door session, the majority of NLA members rejected the candidates on the grounds that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was not happy with the list. 

An NLA member was heard saying during a whip meeting that the list must be rejected as the PM was dissatisfied with many of the candidates. The audio clip was leaked on social media yesterday.

NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said yesterday that the NLA had already set up a panel to investigate the leak.

“I understand the recorded voice is not from an NLA whip meeting since the panel session on April 18 was not about the NBTC candidates,” he said. 

Prayut said it was the NLA members’ judgement to consider the matter. He did not issue any instructions to them on the matter.

In another related development, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday he would propose all the suggestions of terrestrial digital TV licence holders for the junta on April 24 to make a final decision on whether it wants to step in and ease their financial burden.

Wissanu yesterday convened what he called a meeting of a group of “minority licence holders” – financially strong licence holders – to listen to their opinions as part of the government’s continued efforts to seek ways to ease their burden.

Over the past few months, Wissanu has met with representatives of financially weak digital TV broadcasters on their plea to the junta to invoke Article 44 of the interim charter and ease their burden this month, as they are due to pay the fifth instalment of the upfront licence fee next month. 

There is no need for the junta to hurry to make any decision on the requests of the two holders of 900MHz telecom licences – Advanced Wireless Network (AWN) and TrueMove H Universal Communication (TUC) – to ease their upfront fee payment schedule, as more details need to be considered, he said.

According to the proposal by digital TV licence holders, the junta has been urged to invoke its special power under Article 44 to allow suspension of the remaining upfront licence fee for three years, starting from next month. The rental fee of broadcasting networks should also be cut by half for two years. 

They have also proposed that they be allowed to sell their licences to other companies.

NBTC rules currently prevent licence holders from selling their licence to other parties. 

AWN and TUC proposed to the junta last year that Article 44 be invoked to allow them to divide the final instalments of the 900MHz spectrum licence upfront fee into seven tranches. AWN and TUC are scheduled to pay hefty final instalments of Bt59.574 billion and Bt60.218 billion, respectively, in 2020. 

The junta had consulted the NBTC on the request of the two operators. The NBTC recommended that they be allowed to split the final instalment payment into five tranches and that they pay an interest rate of 1.5 per cent, based on the Bank of Thailand’s policy rate.

 

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