Deadline for OTT providers to register with NBTC postponed
The National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission (the “NBTC”) has postponed the deadline for Over-The-Top (“OTT”) providers to register with the NBTC until the regulatory framework for OTT is officially enacted. The NBTC board has appointed an OTT sub-committee to draft regulations for the NBTC’s approval within 30 days. The NBTC will then hold a public hearing and publish the regulations in the Government Gazette. The entire legislative process is expected to last 90 days.
The NBTC defines OTT as: “Sound broadcasting services or television services through other networks that are not sound broadcasting networks or television networks.” At present, there are no specific regulations that govern OTT business in Thailand. Any issues that relate to OTT service content—such as violations of copyright, inappropriate or harmful content, etc.—are governed by existing regulations such as the Computer Crime Act B.E. 2550 (2007). However, such regulations do not have jurisdiction over OTT providers that operate outside Thailand.
In drafting the OTT regulations, the NBTC has hired independent advisors to compare patterns of regulations and their effect on OTT in other countries. It is useful to consider existing regulations in order to gain an understanding of the likely framework of the NBTC’s regulations. Currently, six countries have regulations in place to govern OTT services, which are Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, the U.K., and the U.S.
All six countries have regulations in place to control OTT service content. All six countries also provide a content rating system to prevent violations of copyright and inappropriate or harmful content.
In the U.K. and the U.S., OTT regulations have been enacted to maintain “net neutrality,” which allows each service provider equal opportunity to use the network by forbidding the network owner from unfairly creating obstacles or reducing network quality for particular OTT providers.
Licensing and registration
In South Korea, the platform provider and the content provider are each required to obtain a license for business operation and to register content with the relevant government authority. In addition, the South Korean government limits foreign share ownership in entities that operate OTT services to 49 per cent and limits the market share of OTT service providers to one-third of overall market share in broadcasting and television business.
In Singapore, OTT providers are required to obtain a license for business operation. Foreign entities that operate OTT services in Singapore are also bound by such requirement.
As for Thailand, it is expected that the NBTC will enact similar regulations to control OTT service content, and provide a content rating system to prevent violations of copyright and the dissemination of inappropriate or harmful content. Net neutrality measures to support equal opportunities among providers are also expected.
Regarding licensing and registration requirements, the NBTC’s independent advisors have recommended dividing the enforcement period for the NBTC’s pending regulations into two periods: in the first period, the NBTC should require the OTT provider to register with the NBTC so it can analyze the provider’s data and the effects of its OTT service; in the second period, the NBTC should implement a licensing and registration system for the purpose of ensuring equality of opportunity for providers.
It is also expected that the NBTC will cooperate with the Revenue Department to impose tax on OTT service providers.