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 have historically been relatively free, although the government and legislature have always exercised considerable control, especially over broadcast media. During the governments of Thaksin Shinawatra, the subsequent military-run administration after the 2006 coup and the subsequent elected administrations, the Thai media have suffered from increasing restrictions and censorship.
- 1 Television
- 2 Radio
- 3 Newspapers
- 4 Internet
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Television is by far the most popular medium in Thailand. Almost 80% of Thais are estimated to rely on television as their primary source of news . Major television stations are owned and controlled by the Royal Thai Army or government.
Thailand has 204 AM stations, 334 FM stations and six shortwave broadcasters (as of 2011). As is the case with television, radio broadcasting is supposed to be regulated by the Broadcasting Commission (NBC). However, because of delays in establishing the NBC, radio frequencies remain in the hands of a several governmental 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 Nakhon Ratchasima Province as well as in other locations, several community radio stations were shut down, after several warnings from governmental 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 was removed from power, community radios activities were more and more attuned to address political controversies that had been spun off after the coup d'état of 2006.
The military junta parliament passed a Broadcasting Act of 2008 in December 2007. It became effective in March 2008. The new law revokes the old one which reserved monopoly rights in the broadcast sector to the government and governmental agencies. The new law requires that all broadcasters, stations, and operators have a 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 of the regulations, decisions, and administrative guidelines issued by virtue of the repealed Radio and Television Act ceased to exist as they were superseded 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, 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 rights has never been challenged or tested in those "mainstream" radio stations. For television, all TV stations are either owned by government, the 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 comment from the 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 for 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. Airwaves 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 wrongdoing, 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 October 2011, the king signed in the Royal Appointment decree thus gave birth to the first "convergence" regulator. Six out of 11 members are from military or police while two are from civil society organization, 3 commissioners are former bureaucrats. One of the key tasks of the NBTC is to adopt at least three master plans. They are the Spectrum Master Plan, Broadcasting Master Plan, and Telecommunications Master Plan. It is expected that the NBTC will submit all three master plans at the same time to be promulgated in October 2012.
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. The two largest English newspapers are printed in broadsheet format, although there are several exceptions to this. These other mass-circulation newspapers are often referred to as "tabloids", and are the Phuket Gazette, Pattaya Mail, and Hua Hin Today.
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 cultivated 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 spectrum. 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."
Mass circulation dailies
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 a familial relationship. None of the media are true publicly held companies requiring fiduciary duty to the public.
- Thai Rath - Claiming a circulation of approximately one 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.
- Post Today - Has a circulation of approximately 100,000. Owned by Post Publishing PLC, publishers of the Bangkok Post.
- Daily News - Circulation was claimed to be as high as 900,000 in 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. Khao Sod is a part of Matichon PLC, a publishing group. Its editorial line is moderate to liberal. Keen on crime news, it also concentrates on environmental 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 relatively well-educated business and upper to middle income group, who generally support its conservative stance.
- Matichon - Claims a 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.
- Manager 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 PLC, a local media and entertainment firm. Maintains a conservative editorial line.
- Chiang Rai Times- Chiang Rai news, classifieds, business listings, and travel information for Chiang Rai Province.
- International New York Times - Circulation is somewhere in the 5,000-10,000 range. In 2005-2006, 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.
- The Nation - Circulation is in the 60,000-80,000 range. It is the flagship publication of the Nation Multimedia Group. Maintains a conservative editorial line.
Semi-weekly business newspapers
- Prachachart Turakij - Owned by Matichon PLC
- 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 PLC. 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
- The Korat Daily 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.
- The Korat Post English language monthly formerly published by Mrs Tongmuan Anderson, the wife of a former US Peace Corps volunteer and the paper's editor and translator, Frank G Anderson. The paper derived its news from local and visiting sources, from village events to national occurrences. Begun in April 1999, it was independent and has even indicated its opposition, editorially, to government policies. It also provided translations of other local Thai language papers for English readers.
The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) 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 the ICT. It was allowed to freely operate. Users, however, 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 4 April 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).
- "Thailand". Freedom of the Press Report 2013. Freedom House. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- "Report Thailand 2013". Reports Without Borders. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
- For more on this area see: Wissesang, P., & Freeman, B. C.(2012) Tuning into Thailand: Radio's Struggle to Find its Voice in the Land of Smiles. In J. Hendrick's (Ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Global Radio, pp.320-342. UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
- For more on this area see: Freeman, B. C., & Poorisat, T. (2012). Taxi driver radio and the politics of Thai community radio. In K. Seneviratne's (Ed.) Peoples’ Voices, Peoples’ Empowerment: Community Radio in Asia and Beyond, pp.274-293. Singapore: AMIC Asian Communication Series.
- McCargo, Duncan (26–31 March 1999). "Media and Democratic Transitions in Southeast Asia (PDF), ECPR Joint Sessions Mannheim.
- About Thai Rath
- "Matichon feels the oil price heat," The Nation, 10 August 2005
- Thailand Media Profile
- Top 20 Media in Asia
- Anderson, Benedict (1977), "Withdrawal Symptoms: Social and Cultural Aspects of the October 6 Coup." Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. P. 17.
- 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