Talk show must be more than PR
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Talk show must be more than PR

With the government stumbling from one controversy to another, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's proposal to revive the premier-meets-the-people talk show is a promising idea, if it is honestly and effectively implemented.

As debates continue to rage about the legality, transparency and benefits of the 500-billion-baht digital wallet scheme, the government sparked another controversy when Pheu Thai Party leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra called the Bank of Thailand's independence an "obstacle" to resolving economic problems.

Next came the stunt by Commerce Minister Phumtham Wechayachai, who ate rice stored for 10 years under the Yingluck government's pledging scheme to demonstrate its edibility, as the government plans to bring 15,000 tonnes out for sale.

Mr Srettha spiced things up further when he declared the old rice "delicious" when served during lunch at Government House last week, instead of asking for formal tests of its quality and safety.

The backlash has been intense, with academics warning the decade-old rice should be tested for contamination before being consumed -- let alone released to the market -- and the public feeling the government is prioritising the task of salvaging its image, devastated by its controversial rice-pledging programme, over their health.

The list goes on, with pressure mounting against the government's plan to reclassify cannabis as a narcotic after its decriminalisation in 2022, and business groups showing their opposition against its proposal to increase the minimum wage to 400 baht for workers nationwide, expected in October.

Since these issues revolve around the government's policies, which will significantly affect the economy and people's well-being, the public deserves a clear, unbiased explanation. Even better, the communication should be inclusive, incorporating views from various groups and perspectives.

The PM's plan to restart the monthly talk show programme, originally initiated by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra more than 20 years ago and carried on by successive administrations after that, is suitable for the purpose.

However, the condition is that Mr Srettha should move away from the past format of producing the talk show solely as government propaganda. This is not only a matter of practicality, as the modern audience no longer tunes in to such one-sided communication, but also a matter of integrity. With the issues involved becoming increasingly complex and generating conflicting opinions, the public deserves to be informed accordingly.

Ensuring that the PM-meets-the-people programme can provide comprehensive perspectives on serious issues will go a long way in showcasing efforts to transform Channel 11 of the National Broadcasting Service of Thailand into a soft-power channel.

Newly appointed Prime Minister's Office Minister Jiraporn Sindhuprai, in charge of state media, earlier vowed to modernise Channel 11. The goal is to transform it into not only a vehicle for government policy communications but also a platform for the public to voice their opinions and artists to showcase their talents under the "soft power" policy.

The PM's monthly briefing is expected to spearhead these modernising efforts. This ambitious goal requires a rigorous commitment to embracing complex and diverse ideologies, and digesting and executing them in ways that promote harmony rather than division.

After all, the creative media, and ultimately the creative economy, must be rooted in critical thinking and robust discussions, fostering fair and civil exchanges of opinions as a means to mediate conflicts and enable people from diverse backgrounds.

So far, the signs are not encouraging. Instead of focusing on the integrity of the programme's content, the PM appears distracted by superficial features such as a preference for the talk show to be more "casual" and an emphasis on streaming it on social media platforms, according to news reports.

His aim to use the programme to "promote" the government's work and discuss his overseas trips, which raises worries that he might repeat past mistakes of delivering government lectures or personal monologues that fail to resonate with the audience, eagerly awaiting policy clarity.

With more than a fair share of problems and controversies on his plate, he is right to seek more ways to communicate directly with the public.

That said, he should seize this opportunity to effectively convey his vision -- demonstrating his understanding of the problems faced by society, and outlining his plans for tackling issues such as the decade-old rice, cannabis reclassification, wage hikes and other controversies. Now is a trying time.

Using valuable media resources merely to describe his foreign trips would seem trifling, if not altogether irrelevant.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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