Yesterday, Chang Noi in The Nation:
While this extraordinary event was unfolding in the city, the mainstream media made heroic efforts to ignore it. No vox pops. No atmospheric scene painting. Few pictures. Only when the blood campaign caught the eye of the foreign media (and had an implied element of violence) did the coverage get more enthusiastic.
Simon Montlake in the CSM:
But viewers of Thailand’s TV stations, the most popular source of news, were told that 25,000 attended. As usual, pictures of protesters were bracketed by statements from government officials. No airtime was given to ordinary protesters. And last week when protesters dumped blood at the prime minister’s office and home, pro-government media hyped up the health risks and the ethics of wasting human blood, while antigovernment media focused on the symbolism of Thais willing to shed blood for the cause.
/>As the latest antigovernment protest enters a second week, Thailand’s mainstream media faces fresh questions over its neutrality, which has already been tested by four years of political turmoil and polarization. Critics say bias is acute on free-to-air TV channels, which are all under government or military control.
/>Partly as a result, more Thais are turning to partisan sources of news such as cable TV, community radio, and the Internet.
/>Accusations of media bias have caused friction in Thailand before. In 1992, when troops fired on demonstrators in Bangkok, government-run channels reported that communists had been fomenting unrest. A fake antiroyal photo in a newspaper in 1976 sparked an Army-organized massacre of students.
/>In recent years, rival activists have pressured TV channels over their coverage and harassed reporters who underplay the size of their demonstrations. As a result, some leave out crowd estimates in their coverage. “We don’t want to have trouble. We avoid the figures,” says a news editor at a TV station.
/>Further polarizing the issues, each protest group operates its own media outlet.
/>But the spread of new media is providing a check on the government’s control of the message, says Supinya Klangnarong, a free-media campaigner. She says mainstream TV channels no longer have the power to distort the facts as blatantly as they did in 1992 as they must compete with other sources of information, including images and texts spread via mobile phone and the Internet.
/>“I think [the government] realizes that if they push too much control or manipulation, people will not believe it anymore,” says Ms. Klangnarong.
/>This divergence leaves many viewers in the dark, argues the TV news editor, who declines to be named for fear of reprisals. He says government meddling in news coverage, which was also a hallmark of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s five-year rule, remains pervasive.
“It’s worse now,” he says.
Matichon recently published a report from Media Monitor, a media watch group. From their monitoring of the free-to-air TV channels from March 12-14. BP has summarized the article below:
Mainly focused on news events, but when it came to opinions and views this was mainly to whether the government, military and police were well-prepared (ขณะที่หากเป็นการสอบถามความคิดเห็นก็จะเน้น ประเด็นเรื่องมาตรการการตั้งรับสถานการณ์จากเจ้าหน้าที่ตำรวจ ทหาร และความเห็นทางการเมืองของฝ่ายรัฐบาล). The news images which were presented was focused on images that may convey violence (ภาพข่าวที่สื่อนำเสนอ อาจมุ่งเน้นไปที่การสื่อความหมายในเชิงความรุนแรง).
Channel 3: Most emphasis was on whether the authorities were prepared, but there was little emphasis on the views of anyone else or the protesters (แต่ไม่ให้ความสำคัญกับ ข้อเรียกร้องหรือความคิดเห็นอื่นๆ จากผู้ชุมนุมมากนัก).
/>Channel 5: The news coverage of the protests was very limited compared with other channels (พื้นที่ข่าวมีสัดส่วนค่อน ข้างน้อยกว่าช่องอื่นอย่างเห็นได้ชัด).
Channel 7: Was very limited (พื้นที่ข่าวค่อนข้างน้อย), but in the one special news report there was no inflammatory rhetoric used by the presenters.
Channel 9: A lot of news, but mainly focused on the red shirts travelling to Bangkok and what was happening at the various checkpoints. There were different reports from the North, Northeast on travelling to Bangkok.
Channel 11/NBT: Reasonable amount of news coverage. Vox pop was limited to people who didn’t support the protests (มี Vox Pop ของประชาชนที่ไม่สนับสนุนการชุมนุม). News coverage was very negative towards the protesters (แต่การรายงานค่อนข้างใช้คำที่ให้ภาพลบกับฝั่ง ผู้ชุมนุม) .
/>ThaiPBS: Reports from various places throughout the country. No interviews with the red shirt leaders, but there was a replay of a previous interview [BP: Likely the interview on March 11 where they interviewed red shirt leader Jaran and Govt spokesman Panitan]. For the government, there was a focus on whether the PM was going. There was some vox pox/”man on the street” interviews with the protesters. Presenters asked challenging questions of news sources (มีการตั้งคำถามในเชิงรุกต่อแหล่งข่าวและผู้สื่อข่าว).
BP: As someone who normally watches a significant amount of Thai TV news and particularly on March 12-14, BP would generally concur with what Media Monitor reports. The coverage on ThaiPBS was far superior to the other channels. For example, on the Sunday late news, they actually spoke to some red shirt protesters on their views of the mainstream media (couldn’t be trusted was one common theme) and then there was another segment looking at one set of twins where one is a hardcore red and the other a hardcore yellow (both had photos of their attending protests) and how this affects their family life at home.This was interesting and well it did implicility counter the image that the red shirts are mindless drones who only turn up because Thaksin pays them too. Now, it would be nice if we really started to get into the meat of some of the arguments, but at least this is better than simply reporting what Government Ministers state and leave it that.
Honestly, Channel 11 was so bad it was bordering on satire, but Channel 11 has always been simply the propaganda arm of the government.
Channel 3’s news coverage was reasonable, but it is simply news coverage which doesn’t look at what is happening in any greater detail (the Sahm Mitti program often has one longer news segment, but haven’t seen one an informative one on the red shirts).
One of the reasons that those who can afford it are turning to online sources is that there are a number of issues related to sensitive subjects which cannot be discussed openly in the media, but are discussed online. Articles by The Economist are quickly translated and discussed. Related news is analyzed.
Is the Thai TV media incapable of getting us an aerial/video image of the protests?
What are your views on the Thai media’s coverage so far?