Thailand bans sponsors' logos from pay-TV programs

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BANGKOK--The Mass Communications Authority of Thailand (MCOT) has temporarily banned all commercial logos during pay-TV programs. Although the ruling affects all pay-TV operators, the order appears to have been directed at the country's largest operator, United Broadcasting Corp., which recently began to display corporate logos and air voice-overs after programs to indicate sponsorship.

According to regulations set up in 1994 by the local regulatory body the Public Relations Department (PRD), pay-TV operators are not allowed to generate revenue from commercial advertising on their channels and must rely on subscriber fees alone.

However, another 1996 regulation stipulates that ad breaks during programs will not be considered commercials if they do not mention verbally the quality of any merchandise and are restricted to showing corporate logos only.

The temporary ban came after some local newspapers had questioned whether the pay-TV operator violated broadcasting laws by showing logos during its programs.

"In view of this ambiguity, MCOT has asked the Public Relations Department as the regulatory body to interpret in clear terms whether an ad banner constitutes a commercial or not," says MCOT Director Sorachak Kasemsuwan. The PRD has declined to make such aninterpretation and now the matter has been forwarded to the State Council.

During the temporary ban, showing logos before and after programs will still be allowed but logos can only be broadcast for limited periods and must not carry any verbal messages.

The move, which will affect UBC's 20 channels, comes as a major setback for the operator, which earlier this month announced plans to introduce digital interactive TV to Thailand by 2001 together with its U.S.-based software and platform partner OpenTV.

UBC has petitioned MCOT to eventually allow commercial advertising on pay-TV, otherwise the broadcaster would not be able to implement the system which requires the promotional participation of Thai banks, shopping malls and other commercial operations.

UBC, which obtains most of its programs from overseas suppliers in the form of packages which include TV commercials, is currently required to black out commercial breaks with a still intermission.

Copyright June 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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