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Unprecedented Power Move: Thailand NBTC to Control Global Internet Giants! Can They Rein in the Giants of OTT?

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Known for being a powerhouse in the digital arena, it comes as no surprise that Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is gearing up to mold a regulatory framework specifically crafted for over-the-top (OTT) platforms, with a specific emphasis on video-on-demand and video-sharing services. This strategic decision charts out an intriguing path for the administration in their attempt to oversee and direct domestic as well as international OTT operators. To enable this, it is mandatory for these operators to divulge details of their businesses to the regulator to design the trajectory of the OTT industry.

The key feature of OTT services lies in its ease of accessibility, offering users the delight of accessing varied media content as well as communication services via the mighty Internet. This revelatory insight was shared by Prawit Leesathapornwongsa, a trusted advisor to NBTC’s commissioner, Pirongrong Ramasoota. It has been noted that while this issue remains a hot topic of discussion between the NBTC and the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA), there has been no official statement from the boards of these state bodies up till now.

In this actively evolving environment, the ETDA has taken a step ahead and urged the NBTC to lay down a defined regulatory framework for video-on-demand and video-sharing platforms. This clarion call has also led them to demand that pertinent information about these businesses be presented to the NBTC. However, this does not negate the fact that the ETDA currently requires all seeking platform operators who aspire to operate in Thailand to submit substantial details to the agency before they can kick start their operations.

Add to this, the ETDA has positioned itself as a staunch promoter of local as well as foreign operators. To facilitate this mission, it has urged all such operators to submit their business, service, and user information to the agency, with a tight deadline of November 18, as per Bangkok Post. This strategy aligns perfectly with the Digital Platform Service (DPS) law, which was officially put into effect on August 21. The crux of this law is to set rules and regulations for digital platforms to ensure that operators exhibit a high level of transparency and potent consumer protection measures are put in place.

With the onset of this impending framework, OTT platform providers are encouraged to register their businesses in Thailand via an NBTC channel which will pave the way to their operation in the country. An interesting point to note here is that this process is not synonymous with a licensing scheme. Regarding foreign shareholding, the NBTC’s licensing scheme solely pertains to license holders whose foreign shareholding does not extend beyond 25%. This makes the enforcement of this rule on foreign OTT platform providers a tad challenging.

Having said this, the NBTC is determined to regulate both domestic as well as international OTT platform providers in Thailand in a fair and balanced manner via a well-structured legal broadcasting scheme. Pirongrong Ramasoota had alluded to this earlier stating that to maintain a uniform governance on OTT platforms, key aspects of the existing Computer Crime Act and the NBTC Act might need a revamp. It’s evident that the NBTC holds authority over details pertaining strictly to TV broadcasting and spectrum use, while the Digital Economy and Society Ministry presides over content.

As is evident, the OTT industry has been raising global issues and sparking debates over content responsibility, the right policy measures for administrating operators, and the contribution of operators in terms of fee collection. Keep abreast of The Thaiger’s latest stories on our new Facebook page for more updates.

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