VoiceTV vows to fight 7-day ban

VoiceTV vows to fight 7-day ban

Voice TV, a news outlet owned by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's children, has vowed to take legal action against regulators after its digital TV licence was suspended for seven days.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on Monday suspended its licence for bias and unjustified criticisms on several occasions.

Lt Gen Phirapong Manakit, an NBTC member, said the subcommittee overseeing broadcast content had originally proposed a three-day licence suspension. 

However, the NBTC decided at its meeting to increase the break to seven days, starting from midnight or 0.01am on Tuesday.

The NBTC found the channel had allowed criticisms in violation of the NBTC Act and the junta's orders.

Earlier, the media monitoring committee of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) asked the NBTC to look into the content of several VoiceTV programmes and the NBTC warned the channel several times.

He said the channel continued to make the mistakes, with three violations in one month.

Lt Gen Phirapong cited as an example the most recent violation -- the March 20 Overview news commentary programme on a Lahu activist shot dead by a soldier on March 17. The regulators felt it showed only one side of the story and the case had not been concluded. The programme was hosted by commentator Sirote Klampaiboon.

In another case, during the In Her View programme on the same day, host Lakkana Panvichai, better known as Kam Paka, criticised the recent seizure of arms allegedly linked to hardcore red-shirt leader Wuthipong Kochathamkun, alias Kotee.

In the Bai Tong Haeng news commentary on March 15, writer and columnist Atukkit Sawangsuk criticised the government’s operation at Wat Phra Dhammakaya.

The subcommittee viewed that these programmes existed only to criticise authorities without good reasons and might cause misunderstanding among the public.

Voice TV channel was warned 10 times in 2016 and twice so far this year for the same reasons, so the subcommittee agreed that the channel was a repeat violator. It also failed to find comprehensive information and did not improve its standard to meet the NBTC’s requirements.

In the latest case, Voice TV representatives came to explain itself to the NBTC and admitted it made a mistake, said Lt Gen Phirapong.

"But three mistakes in a month left us with no choice. A licence suspension is not a normal practice, particularly for digital TV, as it will impact the earnings of a station,” he added.

Voice TV management said shortly after the ban it would seek civil and administrative action against the NBTC. In the meantime, it will continue with its programmes on Facebook and its website.

"We insist we have abided by media guidelines. Our content may present different views but it by no means affects national security," it said.  

The news outlet will take legal steps to protect the rights and freedom of the press, including civil and administrative action as appropriate since the ban will affect its business.

"We're well aware, however, that the No.41/2559 NCPO order exempts NBTC officials from any civil and criminal responsibilities," it said.

In the meantime, it urged audiences to follow its Facebook and website.

VoiceTV is among the first internet media in Thailand with a website-only presence in 2009. It won a digital TV licence three years ago.

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