A member of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission is concerned that the redistribution of TV and radio frequencies may be guided by the interests of the powerful and not benefit the public.
NBTC member Supinya Klangnarong said that the body is committed to drafting a plan to better manage frequencies, but is meeting resistance to the idea of recalling state-owned frequencies for redistribution.
This is because some NBTC members, who have previously held high-level state and military jobs, oppose the idea of redistributing frequencies owned by their former agencies, Ms Supinya said.
''The direction of media reform is probably in the hands of former military officers,'' she said. ''Even the chairman of the NBTC board [Thares Punsri] is former military.''
The NBTC plans to set up 12 television channels that would focus on public service broadcasting. Ms Supinya was concerned that state agencies would be favoured in the granting of concessions for these new channels.
She was speaking at a forum on Friday discussing Thailand's media environment 21 years after the 1992 Black May military crackdown on protesters.
Journalists and media observers at the event said they hoped the NBTC would be able to promote a freer media environment in which journalists can operate without government controls such as those in place under the Suchinda Kraprayoon government of 1992.
Frequency reallocation is a way to establish radio and TV stations that serve the public's interests, Ms Supinya said. But she doubted whether there would be any major reforms in Thai media.
''Interests seem to be shared among soldiers, police, politicians and even some businessmen,'' Ms Supinya said.
''I believe everyone will eventually be satisfied with the frequency redistribution, but any intention to serve the public will disappear.''
Veteran journalist and Isara Institute director Prasong Lertrattawisut agreed that media reforms would prove difficult.
The public had expected that the NBTC would design a frequency bidding system that prevents manipulation by interest groups and political intervention, but that is unrealistic, he said.
''Media frequencies will remain under state control as those in power have already sent their representatives to sit on the NBTC,'' Mr Prasong said.
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- Writer: Patsara Jikkham