Thaicom soap censorship fallout continues

24 Jan 2013

The controversy in Thailand about the soap opera that was pulled for depicting a corrupt satellite tycoon continues with no sign of abating.

Hacktivists first defaced a banner on Channel 3’s website and recently defaced the Ministry of Culture’s website. This ministry is officially in charge of movie censorship though it is unlikely it had anything to do with this particular incident.

NGO NBTC Watch has called on the regulator to explain why a 20-year licence was granted to Shin Satellite without an auction and asked why the regulator has not done anything to move the industry to a competitive model with more than one operator.

It has emerged that Thailand’s regulator issued satellite operator Shinsat with a licence without any competitive bid and was rushed through while the rules on who could bid for satellite spectrum was still being drafted.

The group also noted that on 20 September 2012 the Yingluck Shinawatra cabinet passed a resolution giving Shin Satellite the go-ahead to move Hong-Kong’s Asiasat 6 satellite to Thaicom 1’s old slot so that the orbital slot did not have to be returned to the ITU.

NBTC watch also questioned the clause in the licence that allows Thaicom to ask for a 10-year extension to its concession just 30 days before the licence expired. A new satellite takes years to build and prepare for launch, meaning that if Shin Satellite chose not to renew its licence on favourable terms, the regulator would have just 25 months to not only auction and commission a new satellite, but get it launched into place to reclaim the orbital slot which is clearly impossible.

Green group leader Suriyasai Katasila is also on the case and recently held a press conference where he detailed his group’s accusations against Thai regulator NBTC.

He said that telecom sub-board ruled in a majority vote that satellite orbital slots are not subjected to Thai jurisdiction as they are more than 100 km away from the country’s borders, measured vertically. The 100 km rule is usually used horizontally in the sea..

This means that local laws on competition and procurement, that would have forced a new auction, did not apply.

Suriyasai made this statement on 15 January and said he that he would be pursuing the matter with the senate, ombudsman and counter corruption commission. He said that the US and Brazil had both recently held satellite auctions and that it was clear to every other country that satellite orbital slots are part of their sovereignty.

Thaicom has not responded to requests for comments.

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