Aug. 15--BEC World Plc, the operator of Channel 3, wants the telecom regulator to offer some incentives such as a licence fee reduction to help its analogue channel migrate to the digital system.
It made the appeal after a dispute with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which wants to apply the amended must-carry rule and encourage six analogue channels to migrate to air digitally.
Those who do not want to migrate to digital signals can do so, but their status will be changed to pay TV and their advertising airtime will be reduced to six minutes per hour, half that of free TV channels.
On Wednesday, the Central Administrative Court dismissed BEC's request to seek exemption for the rule. The NBTC has given Channel 3 analogue until Sept 1 to change to the digital system.
The court still plans to consider whether the NBTC order is lawful. Channel 3 analogue said its free TV status must be maintained as it has a concession to broadcast in the analogue system until 2020.
"We don't want to delay the country's digitisation," said Surin Krittayapongpan, an executive vice-president of BEC World.
The listed broadcaster now has three digital and one analogue channels. The expansion to three digital channels is because it wants to avoid airtime limitations.
"We want to take two or three years to make sure the digital platform is secure enough before migrating our valuable content from the analogue channel," said Mr Surin.
"We know that Channel 3 analogue cannot withstand the changing stream of technology and the analogue broadcast will fade in the near future."
Its analogue content costs a minimum of 400,000 to 500,000 baht per half-hour tape, while soap operas cost 2-3 million baht per episode. The channel will migrate to air digitally once the digital platform has proven itself efficient enough to deal with the viewership.
Mr Surin said BEC World must keep Channel 3 analogue because its revenue would help the company to meet its financial projections and profitability as a listed company.
BEC World may see falling profits this year from last year's 5.6 billion baht due to the higher licence fees for three digital TV channels, roughly 700 million, while its revenue is likely to be on a par with last year's 16.7 billion.
The company has to pay concession fees of 200 million baht per year to MCOT Plc. Its concession will end in 2020.
BEC World and the NBTC must discuss ways to solve the dispute and initiate some incentives, said Mr Surin.
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