July 11--The digital TV subsidy coupon scheme will go ahead even though the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) ordered the telecom regulator to transfer the proceeds from the digital TV auctions to state coffers.
The Frequency Allocation Act has been amended so that revenues from broadcasting auctions including TV and radio must be transferred to state coffers in order to make efficient use of auction money. Digital radio auctions are scheduled for the next two years.
Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said the first payment by digital TV bid winners will be reserved for the first phase of the subsidy coupon distributions to Thai households, planned for this September.
The 24 digital TV channels have already made their first payment totalling 11.5 billion baht to the NBTC, which it can keep. The second to sixth payments must be transferred automatically to state coffers, ordered the NCPO. Total revenue from the digital TV auctions late last year amounted to 50 billion baht.
The Finance Ministry can borrow from this amount in state coffers to use for the public interest.
The junta also revised the committee's structure for the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research and Development Fund for the Public Interest (BTFP). The six-member committee will add two new members: the Defence Ministry's permanent secretary and director-general of the Budget Bureau. The NBTC chairman will automatically sit as BTFP's chairman.
Mr Takorn said an additional phase of the subsidy coupon programme will be implemented using the fiscal budget.
The NBTC set its 2015 fiscal budget at 11.5 billion baht to distribute the digital TV coupons to 11 million households.
Mr Takorn insisted the amendment would not affect the subsidy coupon scheme.
The BTFP has 22.6 billion baht, with 11.5 billion from digital TV auctions and reserved for the first phase of the coupon scheme, 8 billion from the universal service obligation fund for telecom service, 3 billion from the former telecom regulatory body and 100 million baht from fines. The BTFP set a budget of 500 million baht this year.
"The new BTFP committee will set a new policy for budget allocation and the contribution of funds to help community TV," said Mr Takorn.
An NBTC source said the regulator wanted to provide a transponder cost subsidy for digital TV channels during their first few years to help shoulder the costs, but this move needs to be refashioned after the amendment.
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