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Proposed new broadcasting law regressive, waters down prior commitments to community broadcasters, warns AMARC

(AMARC/IFEX) - On 10 June 2008, the Cabinet approved for submission to Parliament a draft bill titled "Independent Organisation for Broadcasting and Telecommunications Bill". The draft bill is intended to replace the provisions of the Allocation of Telecommunications and Broadcasting Frequencies Act 2000. AMARC considers the draft Bill to be regressive in several key respects. In particular, AMARC is concerned that:

1. The previous legislation committed 20 per cent of the broadcast spectrum to not-for-profit civil society groups. The draft bill makes no equivalent provision and has only a vague reference to the effect that the regulator - the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has the mission to support the coming together of local people to run broadcast media that are run for the benefit of the local community and not for profit.

2. The NBTC will have powers to place limits on the revenue of community broadcasters, with any surplus revenue to be remitted to the local administration where the community broadcaster is located.

3. The selection process for membership of the NBTC has been placed under the Minister for Information and Telecommunications (MIT), significantly reducing its independence and removing parliamentary oversight.

AMARC is also concerned by the lack of public consultation on the draft.

AMARC calls for international solidarity actions to raise these concerns and to urge the Thai Government to re-instate previous commitments to have an independent regulator, to set aside 20 percent of the broadcasting frequency spectrum for community broadcasting, as is widely considered an international example of good practice, and not to introduce revenue limits on community broadcasters.

AMARC is an international non-governmental organization serving the community radio movement in over 110 countries, and advocating for the right to communicate at the international, national, local and neighbourhood levels. AMARC has an International Secretariat in Montreal. It has regional sections in Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific and offices in Johannesburg, Buenos Aires and Kathmandu.

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