THAILAND: UBC complies, drops channel

The Mass Communications Organisation of Thailand (MCOT) has asked United Broadcasting Corporation Plc (UBC) to stop broadcasting Channel 11/1 on the grounds that it is not a free-to-air TV channel

Bangkok Post
Friday, July 2, 2004

By Bamrung Amnatcharoenrit and Nondhanada Intarakomalyasut

The Mass Communications Organisation of Thailand (MCOT) has asked United Broadcasting Corporation Plc (UBC) to stop broadcasting Channel 11/1 on the grounds that it is not a free-to-air TV channel.

MCOT director-general Mingkwan Sangsuwan met yesterday with UBC president Somphan Charumilinda and asked the country's largest pay TV operator to stop broadcasting programming from Channel 11/1 on UBC's channels 77 and 19.

By 4 pm yesterday, all traces of Channel 11/1 had been pulled from UBC's broadcasts.

MCOT director Dr Tongthong Chandrangsu said that the cancellation was not related to the presence of advertising content, which UBC is forbidden to carry.

Dr Tongthong said that the request to stop broadcasting Channel 11/1 came after UBC failed to inform the MCOT regarding the introduction of the new programming, an omission that had put the pay TV company in violation of its contract.

The MCOT had issued two warning letters asking UBC to officially seek permission, but the pay TV firm had misunderstood, assuming that its reply to the MCOT was sufficient to continue broadcasting Channel 11/1 content, said Dr Tongthong.

"Actually, UBC has to get an official letter from the Public Relations Department and then ask for permission from us before broadcasting the programmes. At the same time, the programmes should not carry any content that might affect national security," said Dr Tongthong.

As a result, the MCOT's board yesterday decided to order that the programming in question be pulled. He added, however, that the board would be willing to reconsider its decision once UBC submits a full application for permission.

Suchat Suchatvejpoom, the director-general of the PRD, the frequency holder of Channel 11/1, insisted that all of the programming content produced by Thaiday.com, a production company owned by media tycoon Sondhi Limthongkul's son Jittanart, should be available free-to-air, as it had been created for the benefit of the public.

"We didn't grant a concession. Instead, we just allowed the producer to prepare programmes for us. As well, the channel is allowed to carry advertisements," said Mr Suchart.

Four years ago, the cabinet decided to allow Channel 11 to carry advertisements during live sports programmes. Previously, advertising was allowed only on programmes broadcast outside the capital. Initially, Channel 11/1 had been intended for upcountry viewers.

Its use by UBC, which is available in Bangkok, has sparked a debate over the channel's legal status.