Sorayuth Suthassanachinda

Popular news host Sorayuth Suthassanachinda this year found himself in the headlines when the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) concluded that he embezzled 138 million baht in revenue sharing funds from state-owned Mcot Plc and paid off Mcot staff to help conceal the records of the actual income.

After years of covering stories about other people, host Sorayuth Suthassanachindabecame news himself whenthe National Anti-Corruption Commission found that he embezzled138millionbaht in revenue sharing funds fromstate-ownedMcotPlc.

The scandal took place when Sorayuth, who runs a company called Rai Som, was hired to produce news programmes for Mcot's Modernine TV channel several years ago.

The national anti-graft agency asked public prosecutors to forward embezzlement charges against Sorayuth to the courts.

Two media professional councils responded by asking his employer, TV Channel 3, to remove him from air while the case was before the courts.

As the presenter remained on air despite the fuss, the National Press Council of Thailand and the News Broadcasting Council asked Channel 3 to declare its stance on alleged corruption involving the popular anchorman.

The media councils' moves sparked questions among supporters of Sorayuth: Was it fair to take action against the TV host? After all, the allegations were not considered violations of professional ethics.

Sorayuth's case also drew attention from the civic sector which stepped up calls for a probe into professional and ethical violations involving members of the media.

Pramon Sutheewong, head of the Anti-Corruption Network, called for executives of TV Channel 3 and its high-flying anchor to show accountability.

A move by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC) also caused a stir.

The SEC sent a letter to all listed companies and capital market organisations asking them to ''exercise caution'' in dealing with Sorayuth's Rai Som company following the NACC's September ruling.

In a decision on a related suit brought by the presenter, however, an Administrative Court judge found last month that Mcot should pay more than 49 million baht to Sorayuth because the anchor had done nothing wrong in connection with advertising revenues from his programmes on Mcot's Modernine TV channel.

The judge was giving his personal opinion on a case filed by Sorayuth in 2006 against Mcot, which was accused of selling more advertising time than had been agreed on under their revenue sharing deal, and of not paying it at the agreed rate. Sorayuth claimed to have honoured all the contracts and paid back the 138 million baht which Mcot said he owed it.

The judge found Sorayuth and Rai Som had adhered to its contract with Mcot regarding advertising revenues. The judge's opinion said Rai Som deserved a refund of the 30% marketing margin that Mcot collected.

The judge panel has yet set the date for the ruling of the 2006 Mcot case.

The executives at TV Channel 3 appear content to ignore the requests and recommendations of agencies and councils which have spoken out on the case. Sorayuth remains on air at Channel 3 and retains his popularity among fans.

Sorayuth also slammed reports that advertisers had withdrawn support from his programmes as ''groundless''. The NACC's indictment seems not to have harmed his popularity.

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About the author

columnist
Writer: Nattaya Chetchotiros
Position: Reporter