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Coup has spurred welcome review of media, forum hears

THE RECENT MILITARY coup has been a catalyst for the Thai media to review and revise its roles so that it works with better professional standards and ethics, academic speakers told a Bangkok seminar yesterday.

They also pointed out how the emergence of political media had instigated rifts in society.

Meanwhile, an idea to have the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) checked by Parliament and the public for programme balance, was also proposed.

Media Monitor director Uajit Virojtrairat and Thai Chamber of Commerce University's Mana Treelayaphewat yesterday joined representatives from TV and radio operators at a Thai Journalists Association seminar on media freedom and responsibility. It looked at trends during the first month under the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Both academics proposed co-regulation instead of media self-regulation.

Mana said media agencies might perform self-regulation before the issues reached larger agencies such as confederations of the media, whose efforts were not enough.

The National Press Council was labelled a "paper tiger", while the TJA was criticised as "doing nothing more than issuing statements", he said.

On the media's work, Mana said both quantity and quality of investigative reporting by the media had decreased in recent days while corruption appeared to be more widespread.

"Pantip (Pantip.com) detectives are even better than many journalists (in doing investigation)," he said.

Uajit said some media organisations were financially strapped and received money from political groups in power, leading to their domination.

Both academics agreed there must be reorganisation of the relationship between media professionals and media capitalists.

Suparp Kleekachai, a former media figure-turned-politician now back as chairman of the digital TV operators' club, said the media should ask itself why many people were glad it was now controlled after the military coup.

"If we'd lived together and worked properly, we wouldn't have been muzzled," Suparp said, citing media who took political sides.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said 12 satellite TV stations were now under the NCPO's scrutiny on whether they could return to air. The NBTC would soon allow 60 stations to resume telecasting while the other 80 satellite TV channels would have to adjust their content and remove illegal commercials - especially those with exaggerated content or advertisements.

Previously, there were over 500 satellite TV stations but now only 139 remained, he said.

Regarding criticism against the performance and cost of the NBTC, Takorn proposed that the budget for the commission be approved by Parliament annually. Meanwhile, the money it received from licence bids should go to the national budget.

Khunparsin Jarujinda represented the satellite TV association. He said that, while satellite TV was still not allowed on air, the association agreed problems remained with illegal commercials, mostly for drugs and food supplements.

The satellite TV association was happy to cooperate over its regulation so it could produce good content, Khunparsin said.

The NBTC has said many satellite TV channels could get a green light to go back on air by the end of the month.

Charoen Thinkohkaew, chairman of the Thai Radio Vocational Association, said operators of such radio stations remained in trouble while they were not allowed on air.

He said the NBTC should distinguish between community radio which broadcast political material, and commercial radio stations which are registered already and follow regulations.

For the one month when they could not go on air, about 2,000 stations with 10,000 personnel had no income. NBTC should expedite the regulating and protection of their rights, he said.

Takorn said the NBTC was still considering community radio stations.


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