Public lose the airwaves

Public lose the airwaves

The junta is poised to "reset" the regulatory body that makes all the key decisions about radio, TV and mobile phones. Secret meetings of selectors have narrowed a field of 86 applicants down to 14 short-list candidates. From that final list, the National Legislative Assembly will soon vote on which seven are best qualified to sit on the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). There will be winners but more importantly, there will be so many losers.

The biggest losers in this race to place favoured candidates on the NBTC will be the general public. In many vital ways, the purpose and duties have been switched 180 degrees in the brief history of broadcasting regulation. The authors of the 1997 "people's constitution" designed this body to be run exclusively for the benefit of the public. Its purpose was to strip away government-military control of all airwaves in order to return that control to its actual owners -- all Thai citizens.

It has taken just 20 years to reverse that correct goal. When the military's NLA votes on who to place on the new NBTC, the legislators will be at least theoretically making its selections from seven "sectors" of society. These are radio broadcasting, TV broadcasting, telecommunications, engineering, law, economics and consumer protection. For sure, the 14 remaining candidates all are qualified with the narrow, junta-approved specifications. It is just that none of the seven categories properly represents the most important sector of all, the one that the 1997 constitution set out so clearly.

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