Violent content led to ban, Channel 3 says

TV Channel 3 has denied political interference was responsible for its refusal to air the soap opera Nua Mek 2, saying violent content was the reason for the ban instead.

This is the first time the TV station has explained its decision publicly after abruptly ending the broadcast of the series last Friday with three episodes still to go, and replacing the series with a new show.

The channel has screened the content of all programmes and its decision to take the soap opera off the air was not politically motivated, said Borisut Buranasamrit, public relations managing director at Channel 3.

The station found the content of the controversial drama series to be too violent, leading to the decision to take it off the air, he said.

He insisted the cancellation of the show had nothing to do with politics.

"The station has not received any orders from any politicians," Mr Borisut said.

Channel 3 is ready to explain its decision to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), he said.

Mr Borisut said Channel 3 would not post the series on YouTube nor sell it in the form of VCDs.

The station's action drew heavy criticism from many viewers, who allege that political interference was the reason behind the cancellation of the show.

NBTC commissioner Supinya Klangnarong said the agency has full authority to make a decision on whether the series breached Section 37 of the Broadcast and Telecommunications Operations Act.

Section 37 bars broadcast content that seeks to overthrow the constitutional monarchy, threatens national security or morality, constitutes profanity or harms people's mental or physical health.

"Please give the [banned] tape to us. We will consider whether it has violated the law," Ms Supinya said at a seminar on the issue which was organised by Chulalongkorn University's Communication Arts Faculty.

"If not, the channel can broadcast it. Personally, I dont think that the drama violates Section 37. Improper use of the law will create a climate of fear in society."

She said the channel might be afraid of "invisible hands" that will land the station in trouble by putting in jeopardy its concession granted by the state-run Mcot Plc.

Suwanna Sombatraksasook, former president of the News Broadcasting Council of Thailand, said Section 37 is not relevant to any part of the drama, adding that people's freedom had already been infringed upon by the ban.

Supaporn Phokaew, head of the Mass Communication Department at Chulalongkorn University, said the big question is why the station decided to exercise self-censorship.

"This is very dangerous to society. Self-censorship means the media has decided to bow its head to political power," she said.

"Viewers have the right to their own interpretation of the drama. But this time, our freedom of thought in our living room has been cut off," she said.

Meanwhile, Krerkkiat Punpiputt, dean of the Media Production Arts Faculty at Kantana Institute, said the ban is unusual as the production of the entire series was already complete.

If the station believed the content to be too violent, it could inform the producer ahead of time to fix the problem before the show is made, he said.

Panthongtae Shinawatra, son of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Tuesday urged Channel 3 to broadcast the final episodes of the television series.

Posting on his Facebook page, he said the cancellation of the series made the government a target of criticism despite the administration having no part in the ban.

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Writer: APINYA WIPATAYOTIN