Thailand's ruling military coup leaders have ordered the Thai TV authorities to make sure that Thais will be able to watch all the World Cup matches without paying. The military is pursuing policies called a "happiness campaign" to soften the pain of their military rule, which still includes censorship and a curfew in Bangkok. The military apparently sees World Cup viewing as crucial to Thai happiness.
Thai broadcaster RS bought the rights to show the World Cup, which they planned to show to those with decoders, although a third of the matches would also be free. At the last World Cup they encrypted signals and many Thais saw blank screens with an apology when they tried to access the signal without a decoder.
RS has already been in court in April with the regulator who tried to force them to distribute the World Cup for free. The regulator had imposed rules on RS, but the court sided with RS's challenge. The regulator is believed to have appealed, but ironically the coup will have stalled the case.
RS reportedly want USD21.5m in compensation. It is not clear if the military will pay up, but they have been spreading money around through their happiness policies. At present they control the airwaves and are showing content approved by the military. Broadcast signals are normally tightly controlled to prevent cable and signal piracy. If the military force RS to broadcast, this runs the risk of poor signal management which could put them in trouble with neighbouring countries and the rights holders.
As Brazil start their pre match warm up, Thailand's huge football fan base will be wondering what they will see when they turn their TVs on in a few hours time!