NCPO order free-to-air World Cup screening in Thailand

Thailand's junta have overruled a Supreme Court decision to enforce the exclusive paid screening rights, as part of their policy to 'return happiness' to the people
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the ruling Military junta in Thailand following the recent coup, have declared that the upcoming World Cup in Brazil must be broadcast on free-to-air channels.

RS International Broadcasting and Sport Management had purchased the exclusive screening rights of the 2014 World Cup in Thailand. Subscribers had to purchase an additional set-top box from RS at THB1,590 (USD50) to catch all 64 matches, with only 22 fixtures set to be aired on free-to-air networks.

The Thai National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) had been locked in a battle with RS to force the network to broadcast all the matches for free.

On Wednesday, the Thai Supreme Administrative Court ruled in RS' favour with the NBTC arguing that the World Cup falls under a ruling that enforces the free broadcast of seven types of programming that are of national interest, while RS contended that they had bought the rights prior to the ruling coming into effect. RS have also meanwhile threatened to stop all broadcasts if forced to broadcast for free, citing the need to comply by Fifa regulations.

The NCPO have since stepped into the matter and enforced a free-to-air broadcast rule for the 2014 World Cup with the military leaders stating it is part of their policy to 'return happiness' to the people of Thailand.

NBTC will be dipping into a public fund, the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Reserve Development Fund for the Public Interest (BTFP) to subsidise broadcast.

"We plan to use BTFP funds to compensate RS' losses, including for the 300,000 set-top boxes it is selling to viewers," NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit told The Bangkok Post, referring to RS' request for compensation to the tune of THB700million (USD21.5million).

The BTFP was designed to protect consumer rights by providing basic programming access to all Thais, particularly the disadvantaged.