Media of Thailand
Thailand has a well-developed media sector, especially by Southeast Asian standards. Although observers have sometimes described Thai media as relatively free, at least by Southeast Asian standards, in fact the Thai state government and the military have always exercised considerable control, especially over radio and TV stations. During the governments of Thaksin Shinawatra, the subsequent military-run administration after the 2006 coup and military coup of 2014, the media in Thailand—both domestic and foreign—have suffered from increasing restrictions and censorship, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt.
In their Freedom of the Press 2015 report, Freedom House labels the Thai press as "not free" and ranks it 166 of 199 nations in press freedom. Reporters Without Borders in 2015 ranks Thailand 130 of 180 (a lower number is better) nations in press freedom.
On World Press Freedom Day 2015, four of Thailand's professional media organizations issued a joint statement calling for the military government to revoke onerous press restrictions and cease political interference with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand.
- 1 Television
- 2 Radio
- 3 Print media
- 4 Censorship
- 5 NCPO moves to control media
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Television is by far the most popular medium in Thailand. Almost 80 percent 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 there were delays in establishing the NBC (now NBTC), radio frequencies had remained in the hands of several governmental agencies, including the military, state universities, the Posts and Telegraph Department, the Public Relations Department (PRD) (National Broadcasting Services of Thailand), and the Mass Communication Organisation of Thailand, Inc. (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 the government estimate. After Thaksin Shinawatra was removed from power, community radio 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 came into force 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 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 became effective on 25 July 2009 and the first license could 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 would be created to oversee both telecommunications and broadcast sector in Thailand. The key task of the NBTC is to reform the AV spectrum and reassign spectrum for different categories of use as prescribed by the 2008 act. Airwaves would 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 the airwaves in AV sector. This is the most challenging task of the NBTC, i.e., taking away radio and TV from government and reallocating and reassigning spectrum for private, commercial, and societal use. The Broadcasting Act of 2008 divides radio and TV licenses into three main categories: a) commercial, b) noncommercial/ public and, c) community. 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 was half-way complete, i.e., the first of the two name lists was finalized and was 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 a special committee to recommend the nominees amidst allegations of wrongdoing and kick backs. The NBTC will consist of 11 members, five of whom will act as telecommunication commission, while another five commissioners will act as a broadcast commission. The chairman of NBTC is not allowed to sit in either commission.
In October 2011, the king signed in the royal appointment decree, giving birth to the first "convergence" regulator. Six out of 11 members are from the military or police while two are from civil society organizations. Three 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. NBTC published all three master plans at the same time to be promulgated in October 2012. In December 2013, NBTC launched the biggest auction in Thai media history for the new 24 DTTV. The first DTTV went on air in the second quarter of 2014. In May 2014, there was a coup d'état and the military Jjnta amended the NBTC Act to require the return of proceeds from the DTTV auction to the public purse. The junta also issued an amendment on community radio, which gives absolute power to NBTC to license (in fact to unlicense) existing community radio stations.
Readerships for newspapers and magazines dropped by seven percent between 2013 and 2015. Only 50.1 percent of Thais aged 15–24 said they read magazines in 2015, down from 61.7 percent in 2013. Print subscriptions are declining as more people read on their mobile devices. Ad spending fell by 14.28 percent to 4.22 billion baht (US$118 million) for magazines and by 6.45 percent to 12.33 billion baht (US$345 million) for newspapers. Yet total ad spending for print is 16.55 billion baht (US$463 million), still higher than 9,869 million (US$276 million) in digital, according to Digital Advertising Association of Thailand.
In contrast to television, newspapers in Thailand are subject to somewhat less governmental supervision. Readers have a choice of numerous papers, ranging from sensationalist mass-circulation dailies to newspapers specializing in coverage of political and business.
That may be changing. New restrictive guidelines for receiving and renewing foreign media work visas are to come into effect on 21 March 2016 that could effectively end the longstanding role of the country as a benign host for freelance reporters and photographers.
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 (ไทยรัฐ)- 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 (เดลินิวส์) - 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 (ข่าวสด) - The name translates as "fresh news". Third in circulation among Thai newspapers behind Thai Rath and Daily News. Founded on 9 April 1991, Khaosod is the youngest newspaper of Matichon Publishing Group, which also publishes two other daily news publications, Matichon Daily and Prachachat Business. Khaosod claims to be more "mass-oriented" and "upcountry-focused" than its sister newspapers. It sells 300,000 copies per day. Its editorial line is moderate to liberal. Keen on crime news, it also concentrates on environmental issues and the rights of ordinary people. Khaosod English was launched to bring Thai news to the world, making Khaosod the first Thai-language newspaper with an English version.
- Kom Chad Luek - Claimed a circulation of approximately 850,000[dead link] 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 (มติชน) - 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 (ไทยโพสต์) - Estimated circulation in 2000 to average approximately 30,000. Its political stance is considered the most progressive of all Thai dailies.
- Naew Na (แนวหน้า) - 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, MGR Group. The online edition of the paper is Thailand's most popular news website.
- Siamsport – (สยามกีฬา)
- 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.
- 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.
- International New York Times (INYT) - The paper was known as the International Herald Tribune until 2013. The INYT ceased printing and distributing its print edition in Thailand at the end of 2015. Circulation was somewhere in the 5,000-10,000 range. A company spokesman attributed the move to the high and rising cost of operation in Thailand. The print edition will still be available in six other Southeast Asian nations: Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. Not long after the decision was taken, a front page story in the Thailand edition of the INYT was left blank. In its place was a short message that read, "the article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal." The story that was removed was entitled, "Thai Economy and Spirits Are Sagging". It appeared in the 29 November 2015 edition of the New York Times. Later in the same week, an op-ed by Bangkok-based reporter Tom Felix Joehnk was omitted from the 4 December edition of the INYT by its Bangkok printer, Eastern Printing PCL. In a statement, the New York Times commented that, "This second incident in a week clearly demonstrates the regrettable lack of press freedom in the country. Readers in Thailand do not have full and open access to journalism, a fundamental right that should be afforded to all citizens."
- In September 2015, Eastern Printing declined to publish an entire issue of the International New York Times which contained an article entitled, "With King in Declining Health, Future of Monarchy in Thailand Uncertain".
Semi-weekly business newspapers
- Prachachart Turakij - owned by Matichon PLC
- Siam Turakij
- Than Settakij
- Chiang Mai Mail - English language; published every Tuesday
- Chiang Rai Times - English language; Chiang Rai news, classifieds, business listings, and travel information for Chiang Rai Province
- Krungthep Turakij Biz Week - part of Nation Multimedia Group
- Novostiphuketa - Russian language; sister publication of Phuket News; owned by Class Act Media
- Pattaya Blatt - German language; published every other week
- Phujatkarnly Week - owned by the Manager Media Group
- Phuket News – English language; owned by Class Act Media
- 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; has the largest circulation in the region, with 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 the English-language weekly The Korat Post.
- The Korat Post[dead link] - 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 newspaper ceased publication of a hard copy edition in May 2005.
The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) 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 MICT. 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 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 to Thai values and sensitivities).
- Thailand banned imports and sales of a November 2015 issue of the French women's magazine Marie Claire on 8 April 2016 because of an article it said carried content insulting to the royal family and offensive to Thai people. The article was cited on the cover. The teaser read: "Thaĭlande- Le prince hėritier menacé par son addiction aux femmes." ("Thailand-The crown prince threatened by his addiction to women")The article itself, written by Emmanuel Mortagne, is entitled, "Le Prince Qui Repudiait Ses Femmes" ("The Prince who Repudiates his Women").
NCPO moves to control media
Denial of leave to travel
Thailand's ruling military junta has banned a prominent journalist, Pravit Rojanaphruk, from leaving the country to attend UNESCO's 2016 World Press Freedom Day conference in Finland in May. Pravit requires government permission to travel abroad following previous run-ins with the junta. An NCPO spokesperson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Pravit "keeps violating the orders of the NCPO in many ways, so his travel is not approved". Pravit, a frequent critic of the junta, has been detained twice in recent years by the NCPO for "attitude adjustment". The first detention lasted one week. His most recent detention, in September 2015, occurred after he tweeted, "Freedom can't be maintained if we're not willing to defend it." He was held without charges for three days, reportedly in near-isolation. Pravit said his detention ended with a six-hour-long interrogation during which he was encouraged to sign an agreement stating that he would not travel abroad without the government's permission, among other stipulations. Upon his release, Pravit resigned from his position at the English-language newspaper, The Nation. He now writes for Khaosod English.
Crackdown on foreign correspondents
In early-2016, the Prayut government embarked on a campaign to redefine the M-class visa requirements for foreign journalists. The changes are described as "technical", but the Thai foreign minister admits that the real agenda is to make it more difficult for foreign journalists to live and work in Thailand.
Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told foreign and local journalists that the campaign will cut down on negative reporting. According to him, around 10 percent of the roughly 500 foreign journalists in Thailand will be affected. The aim is to regulate the foreign press and get what he calls "unreal" journalists out of Thailand. They will be denied visas to live and work in Thailand.
New visa rules have come into effect. Rule number one states the applicant "must be employed by a news agency...." Rule number two is that the journalist must be a salaried, full-time employee of that agency. Freelancers or new media journalists need not apply. Lastly, The ministry intends to examine the history of journalist visa applicants to see if they have ever committed "possible disruption to the public order" of Thailand. A criminal record report from the applicant's home country, and copies of all work going back one year must be included with the visa application. The new rules have been strongly opposed by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT).
- Nanuam, Wassana (2015-06-23). "NCPO to ask reporters not to upset PM". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
- Freedom of the Press 2015 (PDF). Washington DC: Freedom House. April 2015. p. 23. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
- "2015 World Press Freedom Index". Reporters Without Borders. Retrieved 2015-02-14.
- "Statement of Four Thai Professional Media Organizations". The Nation. 2015-05-03. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
- http://web.archive.org/web/20090720012518/http://www.readbangkokpost.com:80/business/media_and_telecommunications/history_and_politics_of_public.php. Archived from the original on July 20, 2009. Retrieved April 14, 2009. Missing or empty
- Wissesang, P; & Freeman, B.C. "Tuning into Thailand: Radio's Struggle to Find its Voice in the Land of Smiles". In Hendricks, J. The Palgrave Handbook of Global Radio. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 320–342.
- 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.
- Panyalimpanun, Thitipol (2016-03-01). "Why Thailand's print media is facing a grim future". Asian Correspondent. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
- Thongtep, Watchiranont (2016-01-13). "Ad spending grows by 3.34%, with digital TV the big winner". The Nation. Retrieved 13 March 2016.
- "DICTATORS' REGION: Lights going out for free press in Southeast Asia". Malaysia Chronicle. Asia Sentinel. 2016-03-12. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
- McCargo, Duncan (26–31 March 1999). "Media and Democratic Transitions in Southeast Asia (PDF), ECPR Joint Sessions Mannheim.
- About Thai Rath Archived November 29, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
- www.wan-press.org Archived June 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Thailand's Watchdog". Khaosod English. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
- "Khaosod English". Khaosod English. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
- "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.
- Peck, Grant (2015-11-19). "International NY Times to End Print Edition in Thailand". ABC News. Associated Press. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
- "Front page article went missing from Intl New York Times sold in Thailand". Prachatai English. 2015-12-01. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- Fuller, Thomas (2015-11-29). "Thai Economy and Spirits Are Sagging". New York Times. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
- Joehnk, Tom Felix (2015-12-03). "The Thai Monarchy and Its Money". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
- Ruiz, Todd (2015-12-04). "NYT Decries Censorship in Thailand as Article Again Redacted". Khaosod English. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
- Temphairojana, Pairat; Marshall, Andrew R.C. (2015-12-04). "New York Times censored again as Thailand marks birthday of fragile king". Reuters. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Samadi, Faaez (2015-12-08). "Thailand ban on NYT articles having opposite effect to that intended". PR Week. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- Fuller, Thomas (2015-09-20). "With King in Declining Health, Future of Monarchy in Thailand Is Uncertain". New York Times. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
- 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
- "Thailand bans old edition of Marie Claire for insulting monarchy". Reuters. 2016-04-08. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- "Thailand bans Marie Claire magazine for lèse majesté". Prachatai English. 2016-04-08. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
- Witkowski, Katy (2016-03-31). "Thai journalist banned from travelling to UNESCO conference". International Press Institute (IPI). Retrieved 1 April 2016.
- "Media visas battle 'unreal'". Bangkok Post. 2016-02-29. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- "Kicking out the foreign press will come back to haunt us". The Nation. 2016-02-28. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
- "Guidance for foreign journalists who wish to work in Thailand" (PDF). The Government Public Relations Department. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
- Hua Hin Today
- Chiang Mai Mail
- Chiang Rai Times
- Daily News
- Pattaya Mail
- Phuket Gazette
- Phuket News
- Thai Government PR Department
- MCOT News and Entertainment
- 2Bangkok Press Summaries
- Freedom of the Press 2014 by Freedom House
- Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders
- Radio stations in Thailand
- TV stations in Thailand