Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thailand - Operators are concerned the new regulator will be too big and too remote from the market to be effective

[bangkok post] The new body that will be set up to regulate telecommunications and broadcasting will be too big, with too much power, and most of its members won't understand the industry, executives complained yesterday.

The comments were made at a hearing to sound out opinion on the Frequency Allocation Act, which calls for the establishment of a powerful 15-member National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

The NBTC will replace the current National Telecommunications Commission, which has been plagued by questions about the scope of its authority in its five-year existence.

The House of Representatives approved the new law in March and the Senate in April before sending it to a 35-member committee for further study. The bill is expected to be returned to Parliament next month for final passage.

The bill passed by the House called for 11 NBTC members but the Senate has recommended 15.

The members would be selected from 44 candidates in two stages.First, various organisations will select 22 candidates. Second, a 15-member panel, comprising academics and representatives from the government, independent organisations, professional and consumer groups, will select another 22 candidates. Altogether, 44 candidates will be nominated to the Senate. It will then have 180 days to name the 15 members.

Significantly, members of the NBTC must not be, or have been executives, employees, consultants or shareholders in telecom or broadcasting businesses for at least one year. The idea is to eliminate potential conflicts of interest.

Advanced Info Service chief executive Wichian Mektrakarn said the bill was drawn up by people who were biased against the industry and the prohibition in his view was inappropriate.

He said the NBTC would have only a handful of people with any industry knowledge, which would impede the growth of telecoms and broadcasting. He also said that 15 members were too many and decision-making would be bogged down as a result.

Thana Thienachariya, DTAC's chief corporate affairs and strategy officer, said the structure of the NBTC had a typical Thai pattern, with a "strong committee but weak secretariat".

Industry says NBTC will be too big and powerful

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