The four ultraroyalist hosts from Top News who were sanctioned by pro-democracy protesters and Nation TV last year will host 7 hours a day for Channel 5, the military-owned TV channel, from 3 January 2022.
Despite the controversies surrounding them, Kanok Ratwongsakul, Teera Tanyapaibul, Santisuk Marongsri, and Sathaporn Kuasakul said they would work with the Channel 5 team to present themselves with different personae, focusing on delivering impartial and accurate reports.
According to the renewable 1-year contract amounting to 65 million baht offered to Channel 5 by Galaxy Media Corporation (GMC), the commentators will host news programmes at 6.00-7.00, 12.00-14.00, 18.00-20.00, and 20.30-22.30.
The contract also covers a daily two-minute programme Sat Haeng Siam (Siamology) and two variety programmes on Saturday and Sunday, one of which is Lai Kanok Yok Siam hosted by Kanok.
With the four hosts in the team, Channel 5, now with a national rating of 18th, will provide information that will end the public division and help Thailand out of the economic and health crisis caused by the spread of Covid-19, said Lt Gen Rangsi Kitiyanasap, Managing Director of Channel 5.
"The goal of presenting news on Channel 5 will emphasize news which is the truth in all aspects, with in-depth detail, and importantly, which does not create division in society, and does not add fuel, but pulls firewood out of the fire. We will be a mainstream media outlet which will not judge who is wrong or right, but presents comprehensive information and lets the people decide," said Lt Gen Rangsi.
Lt Gen Rangsi said that he did not care much about ratings. However, Chaiwat Techapaitoon, Chair of the Executive Board of GMC, was confident that in three months, the rating of Channel 5 news would soar into the top three, and the channel would reach the top ten overall.
"Pull firewood out of the fire."
Since late August, speculation that right-wing figures would be brought into the military-owned channel has caused controversy. In August, Lt Gen Rangsi told Matichon that the right-wing hosts just came to propose their programme plan according to the annual schedule and that these concerned only those commentators, not Top News as a whole.
At the opening event on 30 September, Lt Gen Rangsi replied to the question of what the programme will look like saying that people will have to wait and see "how Kanok's team will change their looks." The right-wing hosts did not fail to add their comment, with Teera Tanyapaibul saying "We focus on the truth, and omit division."
Lai Kanok Yok Siam, a variety programme that will appear on Channel 5 next year, started broadcasting on Top News in February and led to controversy in May after winning a 4.8 million baht grant from the Thai Media Fund. After public criticism, Thanakorn Srisuksai, Manager of the Thai Media Fund, said that the grant complied with the law and the Fund's regulations and requirements.
The show's host Kanok and his team left Nation TV in 2020 after its sponsors became the target of a boycott by pro-democracy protesters because of their pro-government coverage. Top News, which broadcasts the programme, started operating in January 2021, focusing on an ultraroyalist narrative after the team made unsuccessful attempts to buy NEW18 and PPTV.
Not long after it started operations, Top News sponsors, including MK Restaurants and Yayoi, became the target of a boycott by pro-democracy protesters. In late March 2021, Prachatai English reported that a group of social media users tried to defend the Top News sponsors by posting fake pictures from the internet in opposition to the boycott.
Before the successful contract with Channel 5, the Top News commentators made an unsuccessful attempt to get into the mainstream media by discussing a business plan with the state enterprise MCOT Public Company Limited in late January 2021. Anucha Nakasai, Minister of the Office of the Prime Minister, said at the time that the plan was still vague and that the government had nothing to do with it.
Under the new contract, Brand Buffet emphasized that GMC, with Chaiwat Techapaitoon as Chair of the Executive Board, was a different legal entity from Top News Digital Media Co Ltd, which has Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham as its founder.
Sonthiyan was a right-wing activist and a media entrepreneur whose support helped lead to the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010, the military coup in 2014, and the violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in 2020-2021.