Shin Corp TV unit loses appeal ITV, a Thai television network indirectly controlled by Temasek Holdings, was ordered yesterday to pay unspecified fines and fees to the Thai government.
The company will negotiate the exact amount of the payment with the government after the Supreme Administrative Court yesterday upheld a ruling that revoked ITV’s right to reduced concession fees, Judge Chanchai Sawangsagdi said.
The Thai government is seeking as much as 94 billion baht ($4.2 billion) in fees and fines. The government raised its proposed fine and retroactive fees from 76 billion baht calculated in June by adding interest, Judge Chanchai said.
The ruling brings the focus back to Temasek whose stake in Thailand, where its purchase of a stake in ITV’s parent Shin Corp, is under investigation. In May, the administrative Court nullified the 2004 arbitration ruling that had reduced ITV’s annual licence fees to 230 million baht from at least 1 billion baht, or 44 per cent of its revenue as stipulated in its original contract with the government.
The arbitration ruling also had allowed ITV to increase entertainment programmes to 50 per cent of air time from 30 per cent and to air such programmes during prime time. ITV, which has about 1.2 billion baht of cash, may be forced into bankruptcy should the company be required to pay the full amount of the claim. ITV officials weren’t available for comment, its spokesperson said.
ITV shares plunged 25 per cent to 2.1 baht in Bangkok yesterday, their biggest drop since May 9 and the lowest since they started trading on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in March 2002. The shares have slumped 78 per cent since May 9, when
a court revoked ITV’s right to discounts on its concession fees. “We have no comment on this matter,” Temasek spokeswoman Serena Khoo said yesterday. Bangkok-based ITV has a 30-year concession to operate the only network out of the six in Thailand that is not owned by the government or the military.
The broadcaster became profitable for the first time in 2004 after four years of losses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. ITV posted record profit of 679.1 million baht in 2005. The company had cash and cash equivalents of 1.2 billion
baht as of Sept 30, according to its most recent financial statement.
Temasek led a group of investors that bought more than 96 per cent of Shin Corp, ITV’s parent, between January and March from investors including the family of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The following from Chinese Zaobao news 15 Dec 2006:
But something strange happens this morning. I was told that on the 10am news on the Chinese radio, the fine imposed on iTV was reported but this piece of news was withdrawn from the subsequent 11am and 12pm radio news!
It is understandable for the Chinese news media to be slightly slow in reporting on international news as reported in English international wired news services as translation needs time. However to withdraw news within an hour from the radio media is just too obvious that either self censorship is in place or that there are interference from "up there"!
Furthermore, if we compare the news written in Today and Zaobao, we will find that Zaobao has actually tried very hard to "soften" the news by giving a possible "hope" that the Thai military will intervene and "save" iTV from bankruptcy! It seems that Zaoboa has a subtle message that it is "political" reason that iTV landed itself in such situation by reporting the military strongman's comment that iTV should not be used as a political tool for anybody. In fact, if we look at the way Zaobao reported the news, it is obvious that it is trying to relate the problem of iTV with Thaksin. Right from the title itself and throughout the news report, it is always the fault of being related to Thaksin!
But what intrigues me was that the court case against iTV was actually started during Thaksin's administration! The first ruling was given in May where the court action was taken way before that, by the Prime Minister Office (while Thaksin was still in power) back then! This is one puzzle that was never touched on in local news report.
There is of course, no mention of "accountability" here. Compare these local news report to Asia Times commentary, I think local news media really has a long way to go!
Goh Meng Seng