Thai public TV might face fine over programme on 14 embattled anti-junta activists

The Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS), a public media outlet supported by the state, might face a 50,000 baht fine from the Thai authorities for broadcasting a programme on the background of the 14 embattled anti-junta student activists.

According to the Nation Breaking News, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand (NBCT) summoned for a discussion the executive board members of Thai PBS over a TV news programme called “Before becoming the New Democracy Group: Looking Back at the Movements of the 14 Students from Dao Din and in front of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Centre”, which was broadcast on June 28.

The TV programme presented the background of the 14 embattled anti-junta activists most of whom are students, such as the Dao Din Group from northeastern Khon Kaen Province, which has long been engaged in activities against a gold mine in Loei Province together with the locals.

The programme pointed out that the 14 anti-junta activists were also engaged in activities against the Amnesty Bill, a bill aimed to give impunity to people involved in the 2010 political violence and Thaksin Shinawatra, a controversial ex-Prime Minister, which was proposed under the last elected government under Yingluck Shinawatra, the Prime Minister before the coup d’état.

A source at NBTC told Prachatai that the NBTC’s Broadcasting Committee has not made any decision regarding the measures which Thai PBS might face and the Committee might finalise its decision on the matter next week.      

There has not been any official response from Thai PBS. However, Nattaya Wawweerakhup, a Thai PBS programme host, on Tuesday, 30 June 2015, posted the content of Article 37 of the 2007 Act to Assign Radio Frequencies and Regulate Broadcasting and Telecommunication Services on her Facebook profile and urged her colleagues to study it.

Last year, the Thai junta pressured Thai PBS to remove Nattaya from a TV programme she was hosting called “Voices of the People that must be heard before the Reform” because she asked questions which led people to make negative remarks about the 2014 coup d’état.

In brief, Article 37 of the Act states that the NBTC shall refer to Article 27 of the act to fine or issue notifications to TV stations which broadcast inappropriate content prior to suspending broadcasting licenses. Media establishments which violate the broadcasting act are liable to face a 50,000 baht fine (USD 1,481).     

In early May 2015, the NBCT issued an order to shutdown Peace TV, a TV station affiliated with United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), a red-shirt group.

According to Natee Sukonrat, the chair of the NBCT’s Broadcasting Committee, the decision to shut down Peace TV to was made because the TV station repeatedly broadcast inappropriate programmes which were sensitive to national security.

Supinya Klangnarong, one of the members of the NBTC’s Broadcasting Committee, however, posted on her Twitter account that she voiced opposition to the NBTC’s measure.

"I agree that, in principle, the NBTC should increase its efforts to regulate TV channels to prevent the problem of reproducing hatred and incitement, but it should be proportionate," Supinya wrote. "We should not just jump from never using power to using power to the maximum extent," Khaosod English quoted Supinya as saying in late April.

"From what I have seen, Peace TV does not use rude language like another channel that belongs to the same political group. The content may be seen as criticizing state power from a sceptical viewpoint," Supinya wrote on Twitter.