Viewer surge reflects interest in politics

Viewer surge reflects interest in politics

Say cheese: A resident of the capital's Bangkok Noi area yesterday takes a selfie with Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, the Pheu Thai Party's chief strategist.
Say cheese: A resident of the capital's Bangkok Noi area yesterday takes a selfie with Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, the Pheu Thai Party's chief strategist.

The National Assembly Radio and Television Broadcasting Station has seen an unprecedented surge in viewers on its social media platform over the past two months, which politicians believe is a sign of increasing public awareness and engagement in the political and democratic process.

The station -- which broadcasts live and recorded coverage of parliament proceedings via TV and radio frequencies -- has more than 180,000 followers on its Facebook page, TPchannelFan.

The figure reflects a significant increase from the number of followers it had before the March 24 election, which stood at about 20,000.

Station director Somusa Buranahet said she saw it coming.

"It began when people started to call in to ask where they could watch the House speaker selection," she said.

"We knew that more and more people were tuning in, but the spike became really evident on our Facebook page," she said.

According to traffic statistics, live streams of the now-dissolved National Legislative Assembly (NLA) sessions drew between 700-800 viewers per session. It was eclipsed by the House speaker selection process on May 25, which clocked more than 6.5 million views.

However, the prime minister selec- tion process on June 5 broke the station's record when it received 9.43 million views. Meanwhile, the first debate on the government's policy manifesto on July 25 garnered 4.32 million views.

"The live broadcast of the prime minister selection process was shared more than 10,000 times," she said. "While the average stream is watched by only hundreds, the number of simultaneous views for that programme peaked at over one million."

Ms Somusa said the station does not have any viewership data on parliamentary proceedings on conventional TV stations because commercial operations calculate their ratings in a different manner.

Col Setthapong Malisuwan, a list-MP and spokesman of the Bhumjaithai Party, attributed the spike in viewership to a heightened sense of political awareness, high expectations of lawmakers, as well as disappointment over the lacklustre performance of the military-backed NLA.

He said tuning in to House meetings is the most convenient way for voters to watch their MPs in action, so they can judge for themselves if politicians and their parties can live up to their campaign promises.

"The change [from a military government to an elected government] is drastic," he said. "The spike reflects our people's desire for change."

Col Setthapong said the March 24 election was different from previous polls in that it was the first election in which millions of first-time voters really showed their desire to engage in politics.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai MP for Maha Sarakham and one of the leaders of the opposition camp, Suthin Khlangsaeng, called the spike "revealing" and attributed it to the increased access to online content that appeals to younger voters.

"We are seeing more political outfits and young activists in the political arena, each with their own appeal," he said.

"The increased role of social media as a platform for political debates has also raised people's interest in politics."

Mr Suthin hopes that the level of engagement should be maintained so that the public can keep the government in check.

"If engagement remains high, it will lead to higher turnouts in the next elections," he said.

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