‘Independent’ ThaiPBS in a post-coup environment
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‘Independent’ ThaiPBS in a post-coup environment

ThaiPBS is Thailand’s public broadcaster. It replaced ITV and it was set up in the aftermath of the 2006 coup. Per Wikipedia:

The Surayud administration formed a task force headed by Somkiat Tangkijvanich to conduct a possibility study to transform iTV into a fully public-financed television station. This effort resulted in the proposal of Public Broadcasting Service Act, in which legal measures were put in place to protect the new TV station against both political and commercial influence. According to the PBS Act, the new public TV station, called TPBS (Thai Public Broadcasting Service), receives financial support derived from sin taxes to ensure its financial independence and to protect itself against any possible business links.[4] The organization is designed such that autonomy and immunity to any intervention from politicians or state power are ensured.[4] The required establishment of aViewers Committee would also help guarantee accountability and the quality of programs that reflects demands from viewers.

BP: On the evening of the coup, they held out as per The Nation:

Some TV channels, including ThaiPBS, broadcast live on YouTube for two hours on Thursday evening after the coup. It rapidly gained almost 160,000 viewers before it was ordered to stop.

BP: The military then stopped them so they deserved kudos for continuing, but since coming back on air (it returned to air later than the other channels seemingly being punished for its initial defiance on May 22), they are far from providing a broadcast service which is free from political influence. They are reporting so uncritically on the coup despite being in the best position to do so. It is not just that they are not reporting critically on the coup which at least one could understand given it is illegal to critcise the junta, but they are providing active support for the coup in their stories. As they are a television network, it is difficult to provide specific examples as need to record it and then provide a transcript, but they also publish stories on their Web site.

The background is that on May 28, Amy Sawitta Lefevre of Reuters wrote a story entitled “In divided Thailand, some welcome coup as necessary medicine”. Some key excerpts:

Middle class voters in Bangkok mostly favor the establishment. Those Reuters spoke to at a pro-army gathering on Tuesday said they approved of the coup if it meant getting rid of Thaksin’s influence.

They say governments led by the populist tycoon and his supporters condoned widespread nepotism and corruption and drained Thailand’s coffers of billions of dollars to shore up populist policies designed to appeal to rural voters.

“When people are sick they need medicine. It might be a bitter pill but we need to swallow it,” said Pak Preecha, 30, a businessman, as around 40 coup supporters handed out Thai flags near Democracy Monument and sang the national anthem with gusto.

On the other side, groups supporting the military have mushroomed on social media, even as the junta has rolled out draconian measures including the detention of former prime ministers and journalists.

Facebook groups such as “Support NCPO” – the National Council for Peace and Order, as the junta has called itself – and “Support Thai Military” have quickly gathered steam.

One Facebook user calling herself “The People’s News” said “millions of Thais are happy to see the coup”, and that anti-coup protesters were trying to discredit the military.

Others dismiss foreign criticism of the coup and say Thailand’s crisis is one that outsiders simply don’t understand.

BP: Reuters has written other stories looking at the anti-coup protesters, but this was a story looking at the pro-coup supporters and pointing out as made clear from the headline that some Thais support the coup.

First, NNT (nothing other than a state-owned, pro-government of any persuasion publisher) then had the following story.*


NOTE: The above is two screenshots from here.

BP: You will see that the Reuters story is distorted and “some” becomes “most” in the headline and the lead of the NNT piece.

Second, ThaiPBS did the same following NNT as per the below screenshot:


BP: This time “some” becomes the “majority” (headline) or “most” (in lead). ThaiPBS have now deleted the story from their site – the above screenshot is from Google cache. If you now click on the link to the story, you get “Oops! That page can’t be found”. Perhaps they realized the error but instead of correcting it and changing it to “some” they simply removed the story from the site. Was this because correcting the story would mean it would no longer  be in line with the current editorial policy? Now, the above is just one example, but you can also go through the timeline of stories they publish in English. Independent of the junta, ThaiPBS is not….