'Concern over content' behind axing of drama

national January 06, 2013 00:00

By The Nation on Sunday

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NBTC panel chief says Channel 3 executives were worried some parts of soap opera may violate broadcast law

Channel 3 executives abruptly terminated the controversial soap opera “Nua Mek 2” on Friday night because of their concern its content could violate the law, a member of the broadcast regulator said yesterday.

Peerapong Manakit said he gathered from personal discussions  with unnamed Channel 3 executives that the station was concerned the drama might violate Article 37 of the Radio and Television Broadcasting Business Act BE 2551 (2008). But he wasn’t told which parts of the drama had such violations. 
Peerapong is chairman of the National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC)’s subcommittee in charge of content and programme slots.
Peerapong said the scrapping of the soap opera was an act of self-censorship by the station. He said NBTC wouldn’t be able to investigate the episodes that were aired or published and said the Channel 3 committee overseeing content must have thought it through before terminating it.
Article 37 prohibits the airing of programmes with content within the frame of overthrowing the country’s democracy; or affecting national security, order or people’s morality; or within the frame of obscenity or seriously affecting people’s minds and health.
Meanwhile, social media has seen a move to set up a Facebook page calling for the return of “Nua Mek 2”, with 12,000 people posting comments calling for Channel 3 to air the final episode. As of 5pm yesterday, 154,744 people “liked” the page.
The drama series title literally means “Over the clouds” and its subtle meaning is “out of the blue”.
Supinya Klangnarong, an NBTC commissioner, yesterday opined via Tweeter (@supinya) that she would table this “media freedom suppression” issue at the NBTC meeting tomorrow. She urged Thai consumers to file complaints.
Supinya said the issue would affect the people’s faith in Thai dramas on free TV while the NBTC legally couldn’t order a station to air or not air any drama. However, if there were such “political intervention” in the station’s decision, she believed that this was an issue involving media freedom. She said Thais would have to watch dramas with catfight, rape and slapstick scenes because people would be too afraid to create other drama genres, especially political ones. 
Since the NBTC, with authority to supervise Channel 3, hasn’t banned any drama, this issue showed that free-TV people were actually afraid of the “invisible hand” rather than the NBTC, she tweeted. If Channel 3 was a victim of political intervention and complained to the NBTC, the agency would take up the case but if the station did not complain, the audience could complain to the NBTC via hotline 1200 instead. If it were a law violation then it would be an ethical issue, so the agency would forward it to the media ethical authority’s consideration. Saying she would table this issue tomorrow, she said she wasn’t sure what the NBTC resolution would be. She said her tweets yesterday were her personal opinion. She said NBTC could ask Channel 3 to explain the reason for the termination and invite those involved for talks. She promised to keep the public posted about the outcome.
If Channel 3 was concerned about its concession contract and hence vulnerable to political intervention, she suggested that the station bid for a 24-channel digital TV signal and give up the old concession. She said the advantage of being under the NBTC licence system was the station would be free from political influence.
Meanwhile, former NBTC sub-panel on Consumer Protection in Radio and Television Broadcasting Business official Chairat Saeng-arun said the producers, stations and audience should be free to view programmes and the issue involving the political drama was a violation of the people’s right. He called for an investigation to reveal and punish the person behind terminating the drama.
Meanwhile, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Tharit Pengdit said the DSI had no part in the decision to terminate the programme. He said the DSI hadn’t yet started probing the lawyer club’s complaint on December 28, 2012, over Bangkok Entertainment’s 10-year concession extension. Bangkok Entertainment – a unit of BEC World – has operated Channel 3 since 1990, and its contract with MCOT expires next year.
Bangkok senator Rosana Tositrakul commented on her Facebook that she thought the drama was constructive hence the station should clearly explain to society why the serial was pulled out and why there was a rush for self-censorship.
Actor Noppol Komarachun, who played Dr Mekha in this drama, briefly commented on his Facebook page that, “…those giving comments are underlings that have no knowledge of what’s really going on…”
A “Neu Mek” fan in Tak’s Mae Sot district, Wanichakul Saenmee, said she didn’t understand why the government had banned this drama, which had good anti-corruption content, while allowing love stories with sexual scenes to be aired. 
The drama, which made its debut on December 14, originally had 12 episodes and its ninth episode was aired last Sunday. Its 10th episode, which was to have been aired on Friday night, had reportedly been edited to incorporate episodes 11 and 12, so that it was set to be the drama’s last episode. The 10th episode, however, wasn’t aired because Channel 3 said it had “inappropriate content” and the 8.30pm slot was given to a drama called “Raeng Prathana” (Passion). This led to criticism in social media that the ban was because of “political intervention”. 
Power of words
Selected quotes from the drama series ‘Nua Mek 2’
From the character ‘Dr Mekha’, a respectable politician and prime minister:
“People who cheat the country don’t deserve any honour. I will not let anyone exploit the taxpayers’ money.” 
“The happiness from cutting an eight-lane road into a national park, killing wildlife and destroying the environment can only be felt by people with brains less intelligent than those of animals.” 
“If you don’t fully understand being human and the meanings of ‘goodness’, ‘morality’ and ‘virtue’, you don’t play politics. That’s because you will end up tarnishing the Parliament and destroying the country.”
From Dr Mekha’s crooked deputy:
“It’s totally stupid for a person with power to fail to use his power. If it’s not called ‘stupid’, what should I call it?”

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