Cancellation of talk show prompts NBTC to act
Following the abrupt cancellation of a controversial TV talk show on the Thai Public Broadcasting Service, an official with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission said an NBTC sub-committee will soon draft guidelines for local TV stations to follow when they are considering the cancellation of a programme."This standard will be soon applied to all media outlets to prevent an abrupt cancellation or suspension of TV programmes like in the recent cases of 'Nua Mek' and 'Tob Jote Prathet Thai'," Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting committee, said.
The cases of the Channel 3 drama series "Nua Mek 2" and the Thai PBS talk show "Tob Jote" are similar in that the stations decided to cancel the shows themselves. Such actions can be allowed in accordance with Section 29 of the Act of Entrepre-neur Affairs in Broadcasting and Television of 2008, Natee said.
"However, cancellation or suspension of TV programmes widely affects viewers. The sub-panel on television programming and scheduling must therefore draft a proper guideline for TV stations to follow. The guidelines will be submitted to the broadcasting committee in the next two weeks," he said.
The latest controversy involves the Thai PBS talk show "Tob Jote Prathet Thai" ("Answering Questions about Thailand"), which was yanked from the air before it was broadcast on Friday night. The programme is hosted by Pinyo Traisuriyathamma, the outspoken executive editor of Open Books Publishing House.
The topic of the programme was the "Thai Monarchy under the Constitution" and Friday's fifth and final episode was to feature the continuing debate between Thammasat University lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul and social critic Sulak Sivaraksa.
On Saturday, Pinyo announced on Facebook that his show would no longer air on Thai PBS. He said his work as a journalist had been interfered with and he'd been intimidated by people in the organisation.
Thai PBS managing director Somchai Suwanban said he had decided to not air the show after a group of viewers came to the head office to request the show's cancellation. Somchai said he feared the programme's production team might be in danger so he decided postpone the broadcast pending a review by a subcommittee in charge of receiving public complaints.
Somchai added that Thai PBS was a public TV station and it has the duty to allow people to air their opinions, but now the debate has been restricted to private discussions.
The editorial team of "Tob Jote" defend their work on Facebook yesterday, saying the show was produced in a neutral manner with equal time given to both sides. They also said they believed that the content would have a positive effect on the high institution. The Facebook page has been accessed more than 600,000 times since the cancellation, the team said.
The show also came under heavy criticism during a Senate session yesterday. Appointed Senator General Lertrit Wetsawan, a former executive of Channel 5, lambasted the "Tob Jote" team, saying their ulterior motive was to topple the monarchy. He called authorities to take legal action against host Pinyo and his guests Somsak and Sulak for lese majeste offences.
Appointed Senator Wanchai Sornsiri criticised the Thai PBS management for airing the series.
"Do not think that such content in the programme is progressive or cool. It is like the saying, 'to look for lice to put on your head'.''
Other appointed senators voicing their disapproval included Trungjai Buranasompop and Pornpan Bunyaratpan. They said that the taxpayer-funded Thai PBS should produce content that benefits most Thais, such as a show about the rice-pledging scheme as opposed to talk of amending the lese majeste law, which affects only a few.