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Digital TV operators to be given 3-year debt moratorium reprieve

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), will be proposed to invoke Section 44 of the interim Constitution to impose a three-year debt moratorium to help digital TV operators struggling to pay up their license fee instalments in wake of shrinking advertisement revenue and audience.

The three-year debt moratorium option was agreed upon at a meeting at the Government House on Thursday (March 15) between digital TV operators and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) at the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

The meeting which was arranged by Mr Wissanu followed a ruling of the Administrative Court earlier this week ordering NBTC to return bank guarantees worth about 1.7 billion baht to Thai TV, a digital TV operator, which shut down its business following heavy losses.

NBCT secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said, however, that digital TV operators would be charged interest for the amount of outstandingt debts they owe the NBTC during the moratorium period. 

As for the NBTC, Mr Takorn said that the regulator would be required to complete the expansion of network to cover half of the entire network within 24 months since the imposition of the moratorium.

Regarding the two digital TV operators using the 900 Megahertz frequency namely AIS and True Corporation which still have to pay the state 59 billion baht and 60 billion baht respectively , the meeting agreed to allow them to pay their licence fees in five annual instalments of about 10 billion baht each in order to ease their financial burden of having to pay in lump sum.

Mr Suparp Kleekhajai, president of Digital TV Operator Association, said he was satisfied with the moratorium reprieve so that the operators could make use of the fund to be paid to NBTC to develop their content and staff.  

Meanwhile, Mrs Prapa Haetrakul Srinuannat, the top executive of New TV, said the moratorium represented a big financial relief for the company, adding that it would carry on with the business.

Similar sentiment was shared by the executive of Spring News, saying that the measure would allow digital TV operators to carry on for a long while.

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