NBTC still split over internet streaming

Board wants wider regulatory frame

The board of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) assigned its subcommittee yesterday to amend a draft of the over-the-top (OTT) regulatory framework that will cover all digital platforms.

The board's resolution represents a significant change of stance after it earlier defined OTT video-on-demand services as part of the broadcast business under a sweeping regulatory framework.

"The board wants to see the OTT regulatory framework cover broadcasting, telecom and digital media," NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said.

OTT includes digital applications or services that operate on internet networks such as mobile VoIP apps, mobile instant messaging, online video and TV, and online music, he added.

The same board approved a decision to add four more members to an existing subcommittee tasked with working on the framework that was set up in line with an NBTC resolution issued in April. It currently has 11 members led by Col Natee Sukolrat.

The four new additions are made up of three NBTC commissioners -- Gen Sukit Khamasunthorn, Prasert Silphiphat and Thawatchai Chittrapanun -- and Korkij Danchaivichit, the NBTC's deputy secretary-general.

Mr Takorn said several parties have expressed concern about the draft of the framework and have requested revisions. It is scheduled to be completed in September.

In April, the board decided video-on-demand falls into the broadcast business segment. But at the time, the NBTC's top goals were dealing with "improper content", especially video-streaming on social media, and creating fair competition in the TV industry.

The subcommittee said it oversee OTT businesses based on the following laws: the NBTC Act, the Broadcasting Business Act, and the Radio Communications Act.

The subcommittee ordered OTT operators and OTT platform providers to register within 30 days of the framework being addressed. It also tried to ban advertising activities on unregistered OTT platforms.

Facebook, YouTube and Netflix were among the OTT platform providers that failed to register.

But OTT services involve sophisticated issues and require careful handling, especially in the event of regulatory drafting, said Bunyati Kirdniyom, director of Vriens & Partners.

He pointed to previous attempts to regulate OTT video services by the European Commission (EU) from which lessons could be learned.

After two years of studies and consultations, the EU's executive body now just asks content platforms to sign up to a "voluntary" code of conduct. This is committed to swiftly removing illegal hate speech such as racial abuse.

No country has fixed a regulatory regime for OTT services or service providers yet, with jurisdiction a nagging problem.

"OTT is virtually operated and delivered via the internet, which is global by nature. Regulating it is hard for one country to handle alone," said one pundit.

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