Thai PBS probe extended

4 senators say 'Tob Jote' offensive to monarchy

A sub-committee of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has been given another two weeks to probe whether Thai PBS's station director had the authority to pull political talk programme Tob Jote off the air - as the station broadcast the fifth part on Monday night without notice.

Thai PBS chief Somchai Suwanban said that he considered public opposition and the safety of his staff in making the decision to abruptly cancel the fifth part of the Tob Jote series. (Post Today graphic)

The NBTC's broadcasting committee also handed the sub-committee two more weeks to probe a similar case of self-censorship by Channel 3 of its political soap opera Nua Mek 2.

The sub-committee overseeing content and broadcasting will have to review Section 29 of the 2008 Broadcasting and Television Act before concluding if the networks are authorised to remove the programmes, Natee Sukonrat, chairman of the NBTC's broadcasting committee said.

He said the conclusion of these two cases will set a precedent for self-imposed delays or cancellations of TV broadcasts in the future.

Channel 3's withdrawal of Nua Mek 2 episodes has been under investigation for two months while the Tob Jote cancellation was placed on an urgent agenda by the NBTC Monday.

On Friday, Thai PBS abruptly pulled the fifth and last episode of Tob Jote's five-part series on the Thai monarchy under the constitution off the air.

But on Monday evening, the station suddenly aired the fifth episode of the series, without notice.

A committee of workers at the station supposedly reviewed the tape of the debate between social critic Sulak Sivaraksa and Somsak Jeamteerasakul of Thammasat University and found it fit to show. There was no other announcement by Thai PBS.

Earlier, about 20 people held a protest at the station claiming the programme, which featured a debate on the lese majeste law, was offensive to the royal institution.

Programme host Pinyo Trisuriyadhamma said the episode's content had been approved by Thai PBS executives and demanded an explanation of why it was axed.

Thai PBS chief Somchai Suwanban said he had to take into consideration the views of people who oppose the programme and the safety of his staff when making the decision to pull the episode off the air.

Col Natee said if the programme was found to be insulting to the monarchy the station director will be held accountable.

He said the practice of self-censorship among TV stations may show that executives are being careful to avoid the possibility of intervention by state agencies.

Meanwhile, four appointed senators Monday claimed the content of the banned episode of Tob Jote was offensive to the monarchy.

Appointed senator Gen Lertrit Vejsawan asked the NBTC and Thai PBS's internal audit committee to set up a probe into the programme.

He also urged the Department of Special Investigation to question Tob Jote host Pinyo and participants of that episode of the programme - Surakiart Sathirathai, Vasit Dejkunjorn, Sulak Sivaraksa and Somsak Jeamteerasakul.

Three other appointed senators - Jate Sirathananon, Wanchai Sornsiri and Pornpan Bunyaratapan - also raised questions about the appropriateness of the programme's content.

Mr Wanchai said a debate on a sensitive topic such as the role of the monarchy or the lese majeste law could provoke rifts among the public.

The content of the programme could also tarnish the reputation of the public broadcaster, which is funded by money from the taxpayer, he said.

Related search: thailand, National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, NBTC, tob jote, thai pbs, programming, monarchy, self-censorship, censorship

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Writer: Komsan Tortermvasana and Mongkol Bangprapa