Politically-partisan TV channels gain popularity in Thailand
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Politically-partisan TV channels gain popularity in Thailand

The Economist in 2009, as an introduction to Fox News* and its impact on the US, stated:

In late 2005, a Thai media mogul named Sondhi Limthongkul began using his newspapers and television network as a platform for fierce criticism of his country’s prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Mr Thaksin, himself a communications billionaire who used his own TV network as a propaganda engine, had come under increasing fire from urban professionals for corruption and constitutional violations; but the immediate cause of his rift with Mr Sondhi, a former supporter, may well have been a government move to sack Mr Sondhi’s personal financial adviser from a position as head of a major state-owned bank. Mr Sondhi’s media outlets were soon accusing Mr Thaksin of insulting the honour of Thailand’s revered King, of committing voter fraud during his recent massive electoral victory, and a variety of other offenses, some of them well-grounded. The underlying social tension was between Mr Thaksin’s overwhelming support from poor Thai peasants, for whom he had set up a public health-care system and microcredit programmes, and the urban classes. Finally Mr Sondhi and several political allies began staging huge permanent political rallies in a park across from Bangkok’s Royal Palace. Mr Sondhi’s Manager Media Group provided the communications infrastructure and programming for the rallies, which brought out well-educated Bangkokians by the tens of thousands. And his newspapers and television station covered, as “news”, the rallies they had themselves seeded. The legitimacy of Mr Thaksin’s administration began to collapse. In September 2006, Mr Sondhi’s allies in the Thai military staged a coup, with the tacit or active support of the country’s monarchy, plunging the country into years of extra-constitutional turmoil from which it is still trying to recover.

BP: The main politically- partisan channels that are linked with political parties are the pro-Democrat Blue Sky (also have FMTV and T News) and pro-Puea Thai Asia Update ( as well as other pro-Puea Thai stations such as DNN, Channel 4, and MV5). Most were set up after the 2011 election, although Sondhi’s ASTV Manager is actually the model they are following. These TV stations, and Blue Sky in particular, have become more popular in recent weeks.

The Bangkok Post:

Politically focused satellite TV channels have enjoyed higher viewership thanks to the polarising political situation.

The PSI Rating System reported the Blue Sky Channel, a pro-Democrat channel, has seen its ratings jump this month to eighth from 22nd in October. The channel drew 224,000 viewers at its peak during prime time from 6-10pm, while it has 248,000 Facebook fans.

The Blue Sky Channel broadcasts live stage activities and campaigns by the anti-government demonstration group from Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

Asia Update, a pro-Pheu Thai channel, is also among the top 10 channels in the country. It rose to No.7 this month from eighth in October.

Its viewers reached 271,000 this month, while its Facebook fan page has 51,000 fans.


“The political situation is similar to the massive yellow-shirt protests in 2008, which led a boom in satellite TVs in addition to the existing six free TV channels,” said Mr Worasit.

Pravit in The Nation:

The number of people watching the anti-government Blue Sky TV channel has risen significantly over the past two weeks because mainstream mass media has not been giving much prominence to the anti-amnesty bill demonstrations, the channel’s managing director Vittayen Muttamara said.

He went on to say that his satellite channel was gaining popularity because it provided up-to-date, live reports on what was happening at the different protest sites. …

Meanwhile, former Chulalong-korn University lecturer of communication arts Ubonrat Siriyuwasak said different political groups were using TV stations to advertise their political causes, which in turn was inciting unbalanced passion that could be dangerous to society. Ubonrat said these so-called political TV channels were today’s equivalent of political pamphlets.

“Television will be utilised [for political causes] for a while yet.

“This may not lead to a state where [viewers] use reason. Instead it’s being replaced by emotional satisfaction,” she said, adding that the recent decision by Asia Update to remove speeches by red-shirt leaders who opposed the controversial blanket amnesty bill resulted in a drop in its viewership.

BP:  Below are some charts that BP has created from the PSI Web site:

Chart 1 – October 2013:

BP: This is only through PSI, but see how badly ThaiPBS does though. You will see there are actually 2 Asia Update channel listings and then “4 Channel” (assume this is the pro-red Channel 4), but actually the pro-Democrat T News is actually ahead of Blue Sky for October.

Chart 2 – Comparison between major pro-Puea Thai and pro-Democrat TV stations:


BP: There are actually 2 Blue Sky listings – assume it is just the way the system is – but as you can see from a comparison on the number of viewers Asia Update typically had 2-3 times the number of viewers compared to Blue Sky and then by the end of October and Amnesty Bill and the situation changed dramatically.

 Chart 3 – November:

BP: Asia Update leads, but Blue Sky is 8th and 10th with T News in 18th

Chart 4 – Last 30 days comparison:


BP: Asia Update has recovered and you see that during the big rallies it get large numbers and even larger than earlier in October, but you can’t overlook how significantly Blue Sky has grown out of virtually nothing. It seems like before the Amnesty Bill issue that many Democrat supporters were not paying attention to Blue Sky, but now more are.  Obviously, if the Democrats were to end their rally, you would see a decline in viewership, but people who are watching now like it for a reason and so this could enable the Democrats to increasingly be able to put their message directly to their base…

NOTE: Actually, one of the reasons for the timing of this post and why haven’t discussed the red shirt leaders being dropped from Asia Update in this post, was that wanted to actually make the point on how “big” Asia Update is and the only way to really to do this was provide charts. The end result is this post which acts as a precursor to the post about the reds and Puea Thai.

*Actually, the comparison between Fox News and MSNBC and the more partisan TV channels is not really apt. The politically partisan TV channels in Thailand are significantly more partisan than mainstream cable channels in the US. Fox News Sunday has interviewed Obama, although not frequently. Blue Sky or Asia Update don’t interview the key political figures of the other side. To give you an idea on how partisan Fox News would have to be to match the channels in Thailand, they would never interview Obama, or any senior members of the administration, or Democrats in the House or senate. Every time they would want to refer to his name, they would call him the “Kenyan socialist who hates America”. This is not to defend the partisan nature of cable news in the US, but the more partisan TV channels in Thailand are on a completely different level. It is closer to talk radio.