- Media of Thailand
Thailand has a well-developed media sector, especially by Southeast Asian standards. Compared to other countries in the region, the Thai media were previously considered relatively free, although the government continues to exercise considerable control, especially over broadcast media. It was during the government of ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and during the subsequent military-run administration after the 2006 coup, as well as subsequent administrations, that began to reflect negatively on Thailand's censorship laws.
Thailand has 204 AM stations, 334 FM stations and six shortwave broadcasters (as of 1999). As is the case with television, radio broadcasting is supposed to be regulated by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). However, because of delays in establishing the NBC, radio frequencies remain in the hands of a plethora of government agencies, including the military, state universities, the Posts and Telegraph Department, the Public Relations Department (PRD) (National Broadcasting Services of Thailand) and MCOT. These agencies operate several stations directly, while the remainder are leased out to private content providers.
Community radio stations operated with low-power transmitters have proliferated in the last few years, offering listeners an alternative to the government-controlled stations. However, the government has recently shut down many community radio stations on the grounds that they operated stronger transmitters than permitted, interfering with existing frequencies. On the other hand, critics of the government allege that the stations that were shut down were targeted because they featured programs that were critical of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's policies. In Nakhonratchasima province as well as in other locations, several community radio stations were shut down, after several warnings from government agencies, when it was proven that their signals were interfering with air traffic control and overlapping signals of other stations. It is estimated that there are 4,000 known "illegal" community radio stations in Thailand. Some critics claim that the actual number of "unlicensed" community radio stations are twice that of government estimate. After Thaksin Sinawatra were removed from power, recent community radios activities are more and more tuned to address political controversies that had been spun off after the Coup d'état of 2006.
The military junta Parliament passed a new Broadcasting Act of 2008 in December 2007 and became effective in March 2008. The new law revokes the old one which reserved monopoly right in broadcast sector to the government and government agency. The new law requires that all broadcasters, stations and operators must have license from the broadcasting regulator to be appointed by the Senate.
In July 2008, the Juridical Council decided that by enactment of the new Broadcasting Act of 2008, all the regulation, decision and administrative guidelines issued by virtue of the repealed Radio and Television Act ceased to exist as they are not recognized by the new Broadcasting Act of 2008. The Juridical Council also ruled that, pending the establishment of NBC, TPBS is not subject to provisional authority of the Broadcasting Act 2008. As a result of the Juridical Council ruling, the broadcasting in Thailand is free and unregulated. However, given the fact that all the existing radio stations belong to the Royal Thai Government, military or security agencies, the issue of free speech or civil right has never been challenged or tested in those "main stream" radio stations. For television, all TV stations are either owned by government, military or subject to concession agreements which give de facto censoring power to the government as an owner.
As of June 2009, the National Telecommunications Commission as a temporary regulator/licensor for community radio and cable television, proposed the draft "Provisional CR License" and requested for comment from public. The regulation on CR Temporary License becomes effective on 25 July 2009 and the first license can be issued 30 days following the effective date. The provisional license will be in force for 300 days but can be renewed fro another similar period or until the new regulator comes into existence.
In December 2010, the Parliament passed a new law which would forever change the landscape of radio and television services in Thailand. The new NBTC will be created to oversee both telecommunications and broadcast sector in Thailand. The key task of the NBTC is to refarm the AV spectrum and reassign spectrum for different categories of use as prescribed by the 2008 Act. Airwave will be privatized according to Spectrum Master Plan and AV Master Plan to be adopted by NBTC. It is expected that the NBTC will replace NTC within 2011. The implication of having an independent media and telecom regulator in a single body is very profound. First, the regulator is tasked with privatization of air wave in AV sector. This is the most challenging task of the NBTC - i.e. taking away radio and TV from government and reallocate and reassign spectrum for private, commercial and societal use. The Broadcasting Act of 2008 divides radio and TV licenses into three main categories: a) commercial, b) non commercial/ public and, c) community license. The commercial service license is subdivided into three classes which are i) national license, ii) regional license and, iii) local license.
As of July 2011, the first step of selection process is half way complete i.e. the first of the two name list is finalised and has been passed to the Senate for selection. After the two name lists are combined, the Senate will be notified and will eventually select NBTC from the two name lists. In August 2011, the two name lists were sent to the Senate. The Senate set up the special committee to recommend the nominees amidst the allegation of wrong doing, kick back and alter ego. The NBTC will consist of 11 members five of whom will act as Telecommunication Commission while another five commissioners will act as Broadcast ones. The Chairman of NBTC are not allowed to sit in either Commissions.
In contrast to television, print media in Thailand are not subject to close government supervision. Readers have a choice of numerous papers, ranging from sensationalist mass-circulation dailies to newspapers specializing in coverage of political and business. Thailand's so-called "business newspapers" also include substantial coverage of politics and culture. Almost all newspapers are printed in broadsheet format, although there are several exceptions to this. So, even though the popular mass-circulation newspapers are often referred to as "tabloids", labeling them as such would be a misnomer.
The political leanings of Thai newspapers can be categorized according to how they relate to the democracy movement of the 1970s. The mainstream print media are represented by Thai Rath and Daily News, which together account for half of Thailand's newspaper sales. Because both papers were founded while the country was still under military rule, by necessity, they had to cultivate good relationships with the army and elite bureaucracy. This has led them to develop an editorial outlook that tends to lean in favor of the status-quo. Thus, these publications are viewed as "conservative" within the Thai political context. On the other hand, newspapers that grew out of the student movement of the 1970s such as Matichon, The Nation and Thai Post tend to adopt an anti-establishment outlook. Therefore, within the Thai political spectrum, they can be loosely characterized as "progressive."
As Thai newspapers do not have their circulation figures audited, precise circulation figures are not available. The circulation figures provided below are based on the newspapers' claimed average daily circulation figures, which are likely to be exaggerated. The largest English language newspapers in Thailand are the Bangkok Post and The Nation.
In October 2011 a newspaper called the Pattaya Times run by an American called Drew Noyes, which falsely claimed to be Thailand's third biggest newspaper, was discovered to have lifted most its news stories, reviews, sports copy and business news from the internet after most of its staff, including some Filipinas recruited from the dating site www.tagged.com walked out. www.andrew-drummond.com Drew Noyes, who arrived in Thailand to buy a beer bar in the red-light area of Pattaya tricked the city officials into thinking he was a graduate in journalism from the University of Tennessee and put a false resume up on many sites on the internet. He also claimed to be an authority on Thai law as it applied to foreigners and duped many people out of their cash with his 'law firm'. He used the newspaper to ingratiate himself with local police and city officials and to discredit enemies. He is currently being sued for libel for allegedly calling a local children's entertainer, an 'international drugs trafficker'. The case is due to end in 2012.
The Thai government's Public Relations Department publishes a detailed directory of all media in Thailand, listing latest registration information, including radio, TV and printed media. All printed media are tightly owned by a single family or small groups of investors who share familial relationship. None of the media is a true publicly held company where the media owes fiduciary duty to the public.
- Thai Rath - Claiming a circulation of approximately 1 million, this is Thailand's most influential newspaper. Prominently features sensationalist stories on crime and accidents. Its political stance is moderately populist. High circulation is due to its stance on populist issues and its acceptance of the public opinion of the general population, in particular, the majority rural market.
- Daily News - Circulation was claimed to be as high as 900,000 for 2005. Very similar in style and substance to Thai Rath, somewhat less successful than Thai Rath, because it has less news content than Thai Rath.
- Khao Sod - The third circulation among Thai newspapers behind Thai Rath and Daily News. Khaosod is a part of Matichon Pcl, a publishing group. Its editorial line is moderate to liberal. Keen on crime news, and also concentrates on environment issues and the rights of ordinary people.
- Kom Chad Luek - Claimed a circulation of approximately 850,000 in 2005. Owned by the Nation Multimedia Group. Its political stance is conservative, non-populist, and moderately anti-government. Hence most of its sales are to the business and upper to middle income group, who generally support its non-populistic conservative stance, but are well educated.
- Matichon - Claims circulation of approximately 600,000. The flagship publication of Matichon Plc, this paper is considered essential reading for Thailand's educated classes. Its editorial line is moderate to progressive.
- Thai Post - Estimated circulation in 2000 to average approximately 30,000. Its political stance is considered the most progressive of all Thai dailies.
- Naew Na - Estimated daily circulation was claimed to average 300,000 in 2002. Editorial line is progressive.
- Krungthep Turakij - Circulation is in the 80,000-100,000 range. Owned by the Nation Multimedia Group. This paper is also popular with Thai intellectuals. Political stance is progressive.
- Post Today - Has circulation of approximately 100,000. Owned by Post Publishing Pcl, publishers of the Bangkok Post.
- Phoojadkarn Daily - Circulation is around 100,000. This is the core asset of Sondhi Limthongkul's media empire, Manager Media Group. The online edition of the paper is Thailand's most popular news website.
- Bangkok Post - Circulation is approximately 75,000. Its major shareholders include the Chirathivat family (owners of Central Group), the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong and GMM Grammy Pcl, a local media and entertainment firm.
- The Nation - Circulation is in the 60,000-80,000 range. It is the flagship publication of the Nation Multimedia Group. Maintains a progressive editorial line.
- International Herald Tribune - Circulation is somewhere in the 5,000-10,000 range. In 2005-06, editions printed in Bangkok carried an insert of local news called ThaiDay in a partnership with Sondhi Limthongkul's Manager Media Group; however, ThaiDay folded due to financial difficulties.
Semi-weekly business newspapers
- Prachachart Turakij - Owned by Matichon Pcl.
- Siam Turakij
- Than Settakij
Weekly business newspapers
- Krungthep Turakij Biz Week - Part of Nation Multimedia Group.
- Phujatkarnly Week - Owned by the Manager Media Group.
- Matichon Weekly - Part of Matichon Pcl. Average circulation in 2003-2004 according to the International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP) was 300,000.
- Nation Weekend - Owned by Nation Multimedia Group. According to FIPP, circulation in 2003-2004 was 150,000.
Monthly and other Newspapers
Each of the 19 provinces in the region has its own newspapers, and quality varies considerably.
Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat)
Thai language paper owned by Mr. Soontorn Janrungsee, the paper has the largest circulation in the region of some 22 million inhabitants. It maintains strong international links with various news organizations and provides in-depth coverage of local, regional and international affairs. It also publishes English-language weekly, The Korat Post.
English language monthly published by Mrs. Tongmuan Anderson, wife of former Thailand US Peace Corps volunteer Frank G Anderson. The paper derives its news from local and visiting sources, from village events to national occurrences. Begun in April 1999, it is independent and has even indicated its opposition, editorially, to government policies. It also provides translations of other local Thai language papers for English readers.
The Internet in Thailand is said to be among the most free of media in the country, though it is under strict government scrutiny. The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology actively blocks Thai ISPs from accessing websites it deems offensive, mainly pornography sites, but political sites, particularly those having to do with the South Thailand insurgency are also blocked.
One of the largest Internet forums in Thailand is Pantip.com, which often contains political discussions and criticism of the government, is currently shut down due to latest ICT Ministry consideration. It was allowed to freely operate. However, users were required to register their identities using their national identification number. The website of Midnight University was ordered shut down by the military junta after the 2006 Thailand coup.
On April 4, 2007, the Thai government blocked access to YouTube as a result of a video clip which showed "graffiti-like elements crudely painted over a photograph slideshow of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. One part of that video juxtaposed pictures of feet over the king's image — a major taboo in a culture where feet are considered extremely dirty and offensive and the king is not to be disrespected by anyone according to the Thai constitution. The soundtrack was the Thai national anthem." The ban has led to more YouTube videos mocking the Thai king. Proponents cite the case of Oliver Jufer to paint Thailand as an undemocratic nation. Opponents claim freedom of speech is not an absolute right and that this act of vandalism is abuse of freedom of speech akin to verbal harassment and hate speech (an insult of Thai values and sensitivities).
- Cinema of Thailand
- Communications in Thailand
- Current events in Southeast Asia
- Politics of Thailand
- Censorship in Thailand
- Censorship of radio and film (Thailand)
- ^ http://www.readbangkokpost.com/business/media_and_telecommunications/history_and_politics_of_public.php
- ^ McCargo, Duncan (26–31 March 1999). "Media and Democratic Transitions in Southeast Asia (PDF), ECPR Joint Sessions Mannheim.
- ^ About Thai Rath
- ^ a b c www.wan-press.org
- ^ www.wan.press.org
- ^ "Matichon feels the oil price heat," The Nation, 10 August 2005
- ^ Thailand Media Profile
- ^ Top 20 Media in Asia
- ^ FIPP report
- ^ Thai YouTube Ban Persists Over King Clip AP (via CBS), April 5, 2007, retrieved April 8, 2007
- ^ More Thai king videos on YouTube BBC, April 5, 2007, retrieved April 8, 2007
- Broadcasting Museum Bangkok, website includes history of Thai broadcasting
- First Social Bookmarking in Thai - Tigg
- MCOT News and Entertainment - Home Page
- Thai Media Project - 2Bangkok.com
- World Association of Newspapers - World's 100 Largest Newspapers
- Free press report by Freedom House
- 2005 report by Reporters Without Borders
- Radio stations in Thailand
- TV stations in Thailand
- Thailand News and Information
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