The broadcast agency earmarked B600 million from its research and development fund for rights to air the competition, leaving the sports agency to scramble for another B1 billion to buy broadcasting rights, reports the Bangkok Post.
Acting NBTC secretary-general Trairat Viriyasirikul said in a statement the majority of the seven-member board approved the sum to support the free-to-air broadcast of the Fifa World Cup 2022 tournament.
“Watch for sure,” read the headline of the NBTC statement released after the meeting.
Mr Trairat did not go into details of the vote but media outlets said two board members opposed the use of the money for the month-long tournament. They were Pirongrong Ramasoota and Supat Supachalasai.
Ms Pirongrong and Mr Supat also voted against the merger between two mobile phone service providers, True Corporation and Total Access Communication (DTAC), last month.
The NBTC said the fund reserved for research and development projects could also be used to help buy rights for the World Cup. “The decision is to allow people to receive equal access to broadcasting and telecommunications services,” it said.
Thailand needs to cough up US$42.3mn (B1.6bn) to acquire rights to air all 64 games on free TV.
The money from the NBTC was short of the expectations of the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT).
SAT governor Kongsak Yodmanee said he had expected to receive more financial aid from the telecom regulating agency. But he vowed a campaign to find B1bn in time for football fans to watch the first game.
Mr Kongsak did not elaborate on other financial sources, saying only that he had approached some private companies for contributions.
The World Cup will start on Nov 20 in Doha, Qatar and run until Dec 18 with a total of 64 matches.
NBTC misusing funds?
On the other side, the NBTC has been slammed by academics and the Move Forward Party for succumbing to political pressure after Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon promised that Thai people would be able to watch the sporting event, and even declared the money to buy the rights would come from the NBTC.
“The NBTC is receiving an order from the government,” Move Forward MP Sirikanya Tansakun, who monitored the issue, said before the NBTC board meeting.
After the NBTC board decision, Ms Sirikanya said the party planned a petition to the National Anti-Corruption Commission on grounds that the telecom regulators were using the money in ways that contradicted the original purposes of the fund.
Media scholars on Tuesday also slammed the NBTC for planning to use the fund for the wrong purposes.
Ms Pirongrong, an NBTC board member, on Tuesday said on Facebook post the fund had a clear mandate to be used to support programmes and content creators beneficial to society, including vulnerable groups.
“The NBTC has no mandate stipulated by law to support the purchase of rights for the content of the World Cup,” she wrote.
Ms Pirongrong advised the SAT to use its sports development fund to buy the rights.
“The Sports Authority of Thailand is the main agency to oversee broadcast rights for world-class sports events like this,” she said.