Thai junta taps into USO fund

Don Sambandaraksa
10 Jul 2014

Thailand’s ruling military junta has amended the country’s frequency allocation act, installing the permanent secretary of defence on the regulator’s universal service obligation fund’s board and adding a catch-all clause that would allow the finance ministry to borrow money from the fund for the public good.

The NBTC USO fund currently stands at over 20 billion baht ($620 million) and is fed by fees and fines from both the telecoms and broadcasting side including 2.5% of the revenue from mobile operators.

The National Council for Peace and Order order number 80 also amended clauses to clearly define auction revenue as state funds and ordered any pending monies from broadcasting auctions before the new law comes into force to be immediately sent to the ministry of finance.

On the same day the NCPO issued order number 79 effectively cracking down hard on dissenting broadcast media operating under NBTC trial licences.

NBTC commissioner Supinya Klangnarong said the first test of the new USO fund board would be breaking the deadlock over the World Cup football rights compensation for the current rights holder. The junta ordered the NBTC to make the cup free to air and it had authorized compensation from the USO fund, a move that was quickly opposed by the country’s budget watchdog.

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