Thai PM endorses the power of Pay-TV



Opening Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva,
Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
“Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia – Thailand In View 2011”
Thursday 20 January 2011, 0910 hrs.
Centara Grand at Central World

(10 minutes)

Leaders of the cable and satellite broadcasting industry, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     I am honoured to be here this morning to deliver the opening remarks for the “Thailand In View 2011” seminar organised by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia and the Satellite Television Association of Thailand.

2.     The advent of cable and satellite broadcasting has brought a new dimension to television. Viewers around the world are now able to enjoy 24-hour television that offers an alternative---all types of programmes from a variety of channels, including live programmes and those that cater to specific interests of the viewers. While the internet continues to grow and offers a vast data base of virtually all types of on-line information, cable and satellite televisions in my view have a more direct impact on viewers in all parts of the world, especially with programmes that independently offer news and opinions from different angles and perspectives. Together with the internet, I would say that cable and satellite televisions are very powerful tools for opinion-makers in the 21st century.

3.     Compared with those in other countries, the cable and satellite television industry in Thailand is quite young. Though now very booming, with estimated 9.8 million households consuming satellite television programmes, it is still at an initial stage, from which further rapid expansion can be expected. Hence, we need to put in place broadcasting laws that will ensure fairness and proper regulatory measures. Satellite television, in particular, is a case in point.

4.     So for the expanding cable and satellite industry here in Thailand, we do need to build proper regulatory frameworks and measures. I would like to highlight two issues, one with regards to the industry’s responsibility, and the other on its role, which echoes the theme of this event---“to inform, represent and connect”. The first issue involves the age-old saying that “freedom comes with responsibility”. In a democratic society, we need to uphold freedom of speech. In Thailand, particularly the Thai people need to engage in a constructive debate on the country’s future, to persistently monitor important issues and relevant government policies, and to make advocacies on public affairs and interests. Although the cable and satellite television industry here is quite young, it has already been an important channel to air many different viewpoints. But as the Thai media has evolved in parallel with Thai democracy, the most important factor is the issue of “responsibility”. It is important for media, in other words, that in offering informed opinions on an issue like the political climate, or on economic and social issues, they remain truly independent, impartial, accurate and straight to the point.

5.     In the recent past, we witnessed various forms and varying extents of government interference with the media. But my Government is committed to ensuring media freedom so that the media can work freely without any form of threat or oppression.  Upholding of media freedom reflects our commitment to strengthen democracy in Thailand.

6.     We have prioritised the protection of the freedom of the press, as well as the promotion of professional standards for mass media professionals. Earlier this month, the Cabinet had just passed a draft legislation addressing these matters, and the aim is to protect the freedom of the media. The draft has been sent to the Council of State for consideration, and will be sent to Parliament for consideration in due course.

7.     This leads to the issue of regulating cable and satellite televisions. In Thailand, the regulation of the industry remains a challenge. There is the use of the KU-Band and C-Band, which allows the use of foreign-owned satellites as well as wide coverage in the provinces. This is where some groups have used satellite television as a tool to air political views to people across the country, especially to those in the provinces. This is by no means a problem – the main issue is that if the programmes overstep the proper boundary and incite hatred or encourage violence, they become illegal as they would be in all democratic societies. The issue of regulation is therefore as important as the issues of quality and substance of programmes, under the philosophy that regulation is best done by self-regulation, and that responsibility is at the heart of those involved.

8.     The second issue I would like to talk about is about the constructive role of cable and satellite televisions in society. The industry can take part in providing educational opportunities for the people, including the youth, teachers and their students, and strengthen their intellect. In Thailand, we have had for a long period of time many distance learning programmes via satellite and internet. Last year, we also launched the “Teachers’ Channel” via satellite to assist teachers in quality assessment and development. And aside from this, there is also the “Tutor’s Channel” that we have established. The industry can provide better awareness of diversity or build the people’s spiritual strength, with more channels dedicated to religion and to morality studies.

9.     The niche of satellite television is that it provides greater access, because it can reach remote areas where conventional television signals cannot. A villager in northern Thailand can easily set up a satellite dish and view various programmes in the comfort of his or her home. So this is a constructive role you all, as leaders of the industry, can think about further and perhaps expand upon it as the industry develops. It will be your contribution to society, as part of corporate social responsibility, under your theme, to “inform and connect”, as key to the success of your endeavours.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

10.     This forum is an opportunity to foster a stronger network of cable and satellite industry leaders in the region and beyond, and there is also the opportunity to exchange views and best practices for the purpose of developing the industry further. What is important is that you uphold the professional ethics of your members to the fullest.

11.     Finally, I hope that, as the industry grows, it will be people-centred, as the most important investment is in people. When you broadcast television programmes, you provoke thoughts, instill values in viewers and give them hope for a better future. There is room for expanding the constructive role of this industry, and I encourage all of you to take part in it. I look forward to further growth and strength of the industry, and I wish the members of the Association greater success. Thank you and Sawasdee Krub.