Thailand's ITV May Suspend Broadcast After Government Takeover

ITV Pcl (ITV), a Thai broadcaster controlled by Singapore's Temasek Holdings Pte, may suspend its operation temporarily from March 7 because of legal problems after the government revokes its concession, an official said.

The Thai government plans to seize ITV's operation by midnight tomorrow if it can't pay 100 billion baht ($2.8 billion) in penalties. The government has said ITV's broadcasting operation will continue under a new name and management.

Thailand's state lawyers have raised issues relating to the government's control of ITV and how contracts with the station may be affected. The seizure of ITV would put all six Thai broadcasters under the control of the military-installed government.

``This issue will be raised at the Cabinet's meeting tomorrow and the Cabinet will need to decide what to do,'' Julayuth Hiranyawisit, permanent secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, said in an interview with Business Radio in Bangkok today. ``We have to be careful on this as it may create problems later.''

ITV is controlled by Shin Corp., which was sold by the family of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra last year to a group of investors led by Temasek, Singapore's state-owned investment company. Thaksin was deposed in the Sept. 19 coup.

The legal problems relate to ITV's key contracts with companies, including an office building rented from SC Asset Corp Pcl, owned by Thaksin's family, Julayuth said. A satellite transponder leased from Shin Satellite Pcl, which is controlled by Shin Corp., is another legal issue, he said.

The Bangkok Post said today ITV may need to stop broadcasting for at least one month for the government to clear the issues, citing Thipawade Meksawan, minister in the Prime Minister's office.

The government said last week it planned to change ITV's name to TITV, which stands for Thailand Independent Television, and hire state-controlled broadcaster MCOT Pcl (MCOT) to run the station.

To contact the reporters on this story: Suttinee Yuvejwattana in Bangkok at suttinee1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Linus Chua at lchua@bloomberg.net.

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