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Junta to splurge on football festival

Posted by pakin On June - 12 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Junta to splurge on football festival

Football fans are likely to be able to watch all 64 World Cup matches on free-to-air TV after the military junta intervened in a dispute over broadcast rights.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) signalled Wednesday it wanted the public to be able to watch the games for free under its policy to “return happiness” to the country.

The junta’s move came after the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) lost its court case to RS Plc, the broadcast rights holder for the World Cup. The telecom regulator was pushing to have all matches broadcast on free-to-air channels.

The NBTC said it would use funds from the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Research Development Fund for the Public Interest (BTFP) to subsidise the cost of broadcasting.

Representatives from the NBTC and RS met late Wednesday evening to discuss the details.

NCPO spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong said the army-owned TV Channel 5 was also ready to broadcast World Cup matches in compliance with the junta’s policy.

She said the channel would hold a press conference on the matter at the TV station in Sanam Pao Thursday, hours before the tournament’s kickoff. Representatives from the Football Association of Thailand, sponsors, RS, Channel 5 and NCPO would attend the event, she said.

The live broadcast of World Cup matches is in line with the NCPO’s policy to “return happiness to the public”, she said.

Army deputy chief-of-staff Chatudom Titthaisiri, who is also director of Channel 5, said the station was ready to broadcast the matches in high definition.

Of the 64 World Cup matches, 22 will be broadcast on two free channels — Channel 7 and Channel 8 — as originally planned by RS. Channel 5, under the new arrangement, says it will broadcast at least 38 of the remaining matches, but hopes to show the full 42.

A source at the NBTC said RS had asked for 700 million baht in compensation for lost business opportunities, but the regulator told the company to clarify how it had arrived at the figure.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit said NBTC chairman Thares Punsri was instructed by the junta to find ways to air all 64 World Cup matches on free TV channels after the Supreme Administrative Court ruled in favour of RS.

“We plan to use BTFP funds to compensate RS’s losses, including for the 300,000 set-top boxes it is selling to viewers,” he said.

RS was aiming to generate 650 million baht from the tournament, of which 80% was to come from advertising and 20% from sub-licensing revenue. Income from set-top box sales also provided extra revenue.

The entertainment company was told by the NBTC to estimate how much it would lose. It must declare its costs and revenue as well as business plans it made with partners, including sub-licensing contracts, advertising and set-top box sales.

Mr Takorn said the broadcasting subsidy and compensation to RS met the BTFP’s objective, which aims to provide basic broadcasting services to all Thai people, particularly the disabled, elderly and disadvantaged. The BTFP is also designed to help protect consumer rights.

The BTFP currently has around 22 billion baht in total funds, of which 11 billion baht came from digital TV auctions, 8 billion baht from the 2% annual fees collected from telecom and broadcasting operators, and 3 billion baht carried over from a previous fund.

Mr Takorn said the NBTC and RS will finalise all issues concerned in broadcasting the football games by noon Thurday. The first World Cup football match kicks off 15 hours later, at 3am on Friday Thailand time

The Supreme Administrative Court ruled Wednesday that RS did not have to air all 64 football matches on free TV channels as demanded by the NBTC.

It said the regulator had no right to implement the “must-have” rule with the 2014 Fifa World Cup, because RS secured the broadcast rights in 2005, well before the regulation was issued in December 2011.

Judge Prawit Boontiam said the NBTC should have issued provisions or other measures to compensate or mitigate the damage to the company.

The measure may have included financial support, but the NBTC did not appear to take this into account when implementing the rule, he said.

The court, however, stated the must-have rule can remain in effect for other cases, according to the Broadcasting Act and Frequency Allocation Act.

According to Mr Prawit, the rule is still necessary to protect the interests of the public.

Some football fans suggested the NBTC should have joined RS in bidding for the broadcasting rights in the first place, or the state should have bid for the rights and broadcast every match on free TV like in the past.

“It’s unfair for the state to spend taxpayer money to please a certain group of people. Those who wish to watch [every World Cup match] should pay for their enjoyment,” said Narong Norpun, a 44-year-old office worker.

State funds should be spent for the majority of the people in the country, he said, adding that it was unfair for the NBTC to attempt to force RS into broadcasting every match live on free TV.

However, business entrepreneur Ekkaphong Hemhongsa, 31, praised the NBTC’s effort to protect the public interest. Despite his passion for football, he said the verdict was fair enough for RS, which had already paid a fortune to acquire the rights to broadcast the World Cup.

Phuket tourism ‘slightly improved’

Posted by pakin On June - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Tourism in Phuket has slightly improved after the military junta lifted the night curfew in the popular resort island, Phuket Tourist Association vice president Phurit Maswongsa said on Sunday.

In addition to the low season at this time, the number of tourist arrivals was lower than expected due to the imposition of martial law, prompting foreign countries to issue a travel advisory for Thailand, Mr Phurit said.

He said the number of Australian tourists was down by 50 to 60% and China by about 30%. Tourism in Phuket would gradually pick up in a month if the situation remained stable.

He called on the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to help stimulate tourism by encouraging more Thai people to travel in the country.

Line Thailand’s “Cookie Run On Tour” qualification rounds will be arranged in Songkhla’s Central Festival Hat Yai, Chiang Mai’s Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center and Khon Kaen’s Central shopping mall on June 12, 15 and 18 respectively.

The final round will be held on at Bangkok’s CentralWorld on June 22.

To become the champion in the competition, gamers must capture the screen with their top score, and email it during June 7 and 18.

Line Cookie Run, an online game featuring cute cookies running away from the wicked witch before she slams them in the oven for supper, is a big hit among line users with more than 30 million downloads.

Phatthalung old-gold find put at B1bn

Posted by pakin On June - 5 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

The value of the ancient gold hoard found buried at a palm oil plantation in the southern province of Phatthalung is estimated at 1 billion baht, according to a senior local businessman.

Thakoon Chuawichian, former chairman of the Phatthalung Chamber of Commerce, said on Thursday that large amounts of ancient gold sheets,  ornaments and other items were taken away from the site in Ban Thung Or village, of Khao Chaison district, before the Fine Arts Department intervened to stop the gold frenzy.

He estimated the value of the gold antiquities at around 1 billion baht.

Mr Thakoon, an antiques collector, said the gold ornaments were 99.99% pure. It was the biggest discovery of ancient gold in Thailand.

He said the golden artifacts included engraved gold sheets, bracelets, rings, earrings, shoes, canes, Buddha images, hairpins, crowns and insect-shaped gold ornaments.

Mr Thakoon thought the gold might have been originally intended as a donation to the construction of Wat Takhian Bang Kaew in Bang Kaew district of Phatthalung.

He also said that Singaporean businessmen were buying up the ancient gold ornaments. A gold cane had been sold for 2 million baht. Valuable artifacts from the hoard had already reached buyers in Hat Yai district of Songkhla province, not just those in Patthalung and Phuket provinces, Mr Thakoon said.

The golden treasure discovery at a field being prepared for the planting of palm oil trees by land owner Wi Thabsaeng was first reported about to weeks ago. The artifacts are believed to date from about 800 years ago.

Mr Wi said on Thursday that officials of the Fine Arts Department planned to excavate the field on June 7, but he had demanded that they first pay for the expropriation of the land.

It was reported that local community leaders in Khao Chaison district wanted the ancient valuables to remain in Phatthalung and that a museum be constructed at the site to display the find.