First air date
|1 July 1996 (television)|
|Songsak Premsuk, Managing Director|
|Established||9 May 1995|
|1 July 1996 (television)|
|Dissolved||15 January 2008|
|Traded as||SET: ITV|
|Launched||July 1, 1996|
|Closed||March 7, 2007|
(at time to closure)
|Analogue||Channel 26 (UHF) (1996 until 2000)
Channel 29 (UHF) (2000 to present)
|Thai Independent Television (TITV)|
|Launched||March 8, 2007|
|Closed||January 15, 2008|
|Replaced by||Thai PBS|
(at time to closure)
|Analogue||Channel 29 (UHF)|
iTV was a television station in Thailand owned by ITV Public Company Limited, a unit of Shin Corporation. Thailand's first UHF channel, the station was started in 1995 when the company was granted a 30-year concession by the Office of the Permanent Secretary to the Prime Minister's Office to operate a free-to-air television station in the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) spectrum at 510-790 MHz. After a lengthy dispute over unpaid concession fees to the Prime Minister's Office, iTV was taken in 2007 over by the government's Public Relations Department and its name was changed to Thai Independent Television (TITV). Following a previously unannounced order of Thailand's Public Relations Department delivered the same day, the station closed down operations at midnight on 14 January 2008. In accordance with the Public Broadcasting Service Act, the channel's frequency was assigned to the Thai Public Broadcasting Service, or Thai PBS.
The original name of iTV's holding company was Siam Infotainment Company Limited. Its major shareholders were Siam Commercial Bank, the Crown Property Bureau (the investment company of King Bhumibol Adulyadej), and the Nation Multimedia Group. Siam Infotainment won a 30-year concession to run a commercial television station, after offering only 120 million baht in royalties. A rival company offered royalties of 625 million baht. This irregularity was subject to a government investigation in 1996. The results of the investigation were never made public.
Established as an independent television station (all other TV stations in Thailand are government controlled), the company barred any one shareholder from having more than a 10% stake. Beholden to no major shareholders and with journalists feeling unencumbered, the station quickly distinguished itself for its in-depth public affairs programs and investigative journalism.
The East Asian financial crisis of 1997 led to heavy losses by the station. One factor for the losses was the high cost of concession fees (25.2 billion baht to be paid over 25 years) imposed by the Permanent Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office, which granted the iTV concession. In 2000, it lost 775 million THB (USD $18 million) — and the Democrat government worried that if it collapsed, it could adversely affect shareholders like Siam Commercial Bank and the Crown Property Bureau. In order to attract outside capital, Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai lifted the 10% limit on ownership in the station. Shin Corporation, owned by future Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was requested to purchase a large portion of the company's shares, which he did for USD $60 million. At the time, this was considered a high price for the ailing company.
Under the Shin Corporation
Under new ownership, iTV's news programming became less hard hitting. Journalists said they were pressured to downplay negative news about Shin Corporation's then-owner, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and his Thai Rak Thai party. Twenty-one journalists were fired for speaking out. They later won a court case against iTV and were awarded several years of back pay. 
Originally, iTV's news-to-entertainment ratio was about 70:30. In the station's latter years, iTV increased its entertainment-based programming so that about 50% of its shows were entertainment. Among its popular programs was the Thailand version of the Big Brother reality TV show.
In 2004, iTV was granted permission by an arbitration panel that it could increase the amount of entertainment programming and pay the government 230 million baht in annual licensing fees, an amount that was drastically reduced from the 1 billion baht the station had agreed to pay.
In June 2006, as a result of iTV's changes in programming, Thailand's Central Administrative Court invalidated the arbitration panel's ruling, saying the news-to-entertainment ratio must be returned to 70:30 and that broadcaster must pay 76 billion baht in fines. iTV contested the court's decision.
Media-reform activists in Thailand, such as Supinya Klangnarong and Jon Ungpakorn had suggested that the station model itself as a public broadcaster, similar to the BBC, PBS, NHK or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which the activists say would allow it to better achieve its original mission as an independent public network free of political intervention and business interests.
"The goal of founding iTV back in 1995 was to provide a public service via a truly independent network. That ideal should continue to be supported as we shouldn't forget that this network was set up following the 'dark age' of information which led to the Bloody May events of 1992," Jon Ungpakorn told The Nation.
Thailand Independent Television (TITV)
In 2006, Shin Corporation, iTV's majority shareholder, was acquired by Temasek Holdings, the investment company of the Singaporean government. Thai media activists strongly criticized the sale. After the 2006 military coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's interim civilian government voiced intentions to take over iTV if it failed to pay 2.8 billion dollars in fines. In February 2007, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont appointed a new executive board consisting exclusively of civil servants. The station was renamed "Thai Independent Television" (TITV).
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont announced that it intended to take over the station and let it be operated by the Public Relations Department, which already ran TVT Channel 11. Surayud promised that the station would not be taken off the air no matter what happened regarding its concession controversy.
PM's Office Minister Dhipawadee Meksawan announced that the station would be taken off the air on midnight on 6 March 2007, following the Cabinet's revocation of iTV's concession in early March 2007. Surayud apologized for not keeping his word.
Then on 7 March 2007, Surayud reversed his decision yet again and ordered that iTV continue broadcasting after the deadline had passed.
Other junta controlled television stations like MCOT were expected to reap windfall gains due to the situation at iTV.
Transformation into Thai PBS
On 14 January 2008, Thailand's Government Public Relations Department delivered a non-negotiable letter ordering closure of the station at midnight that day. The station complied, and immediately after midnight, but TITV broadcast ended at 00:08 am on next day, TITV became history and, in accordance with the Public Broadcasting Service Act, the station was transformed into the Thai Public Broadcasting Service or Thai PBS.
- List of television stations in Thailand
- Media of Thailand
- Shin Corporation
- Thai Public Broadcasting Service (ThaiPBS)
- ASEAN Focus Group, Australian National University, "The Television Business, Democracy and The Army"
- Asiaweek, "Taming The Media", 16 February 2001
- Handley, Paul M. "The King Never Smiles" Yale University Press 2006, page 425
- Taipei Times, Journalists fighting back after being muzzled, March 27, 2006 (via AsiaMedia).
- "Govt to seek iTV fine of Bt94 bn". The Nation. November 7, 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-04.
- Bangkok Post, iTV must again focus on news, June 20, 2006, via AsiaMedia.
- The Nation, Could BBC model work for iTV?, June 25, 2006
- AFP/ls (2007-02-28). "Thai government moves to take over private TV station". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
- The Nation, PM endorses new board of iTV, 2 March 2007
- The Nation, 'Sorry' sight as govt bungles again, 7 March 2007
- "iTV's last hope hinges on court decision". The Nation (Thailand). 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2007-03-07.
- "Government pulls plug on Thailand's only private television station". MCOT. 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2007-03-07.
- "Gov't orders iTV off air". Bangkok Post LXI (66). 2007-03-07. pp. Section 1, Page 1. (print edition)
- "Thailand Independent Television". Public Relations Department (Thailand). 2007-03-08. Retrieved 2007-03-09.[dead link]
- The Nation, Other channel operators may reap ad windfall from iTV fiasco, 9 March 2007
- Public TV channel launched, Bangkok Post, January 15, 2008; retrieved from cache 2008-01-25
- Thailand replaces programmes on private TV channel, Agence France-Presse, January 14, 2008; retrieved via Google News 2008-01-25
- Official Website (Thai)
- Big Brother iTV Thailand (Thai)
- The Nation, The iTV saga timeline, 7 November 2006