Published on July 7, 2007
More than 1,000 people from the television industry gathered yesterday at an urgent meeting to come up with their first serious response to the Public Relations Department's new ratings system, which will be proposed to the Cabinet next week for approval.
"We don't want the government to be biased against our industry, but to look at us optimistically as a good media in society and able to self-regulate ourselves," said Jamnan Siritan Nunbhakdi, president of the Radio-Television Broadcasting Professional Federation.
"We are here today to reach agreement in providing happiness and contributing greatly to society especially our viewers," said Jamnan, who is also chief executive officer of JSL.
He and other federation chiefs handed an open letter to the prime minister, requesting a reconsideration of the new TV ratings law, which they said was highly impractical.
It requires all TV stations to broadcast shows at specified time slots according to type of content.
Public Relations Department officials on Monday met with television executives to thrash out the new ratings system, which would classify TV programmes and allow them to be aired at specific times of the day to ensure the appropriateness of content to viewers' maturity.
Shows thought to be unsuitable for viewers aged 13-18 will be given a "Nor" rating. Broadcasters are required to suggest parental guidance and are prohibited from airing these shows before 8pm.
All programmes considered unfit for those 18 or younger will be rated "Chor" and permitted to be shown after 10pm only.
The other three categories are for pre-school ages, all school-aged children and general audiences.
Well-known TV producer Traipop Limprapat, CEO of Born and Associates, said the new restrictions would eliminate the freedom of all TV professionals in creating ideas, as well as art and cultural products, which are the grassroots of the country. He said that all the benchmarks for the TV ratings system would be defined by a small group of people appointed by the authorities, and they would be the ones who would dictate the future of Thailand's TV industry, both for TV channels and producers.
"It's severe discrimination by state authorities, which sets unfair regulations only for free TV, but not cable TV," he said.
"For fair treatment, the same regulations should be applied to both of them equally," he added.
Jaruek Kanjaruek, president of Kantana Group, a major production house, said it was quite clear that the state officials who drafted the ratings regulation lacked good understanding about the TV industry and its production process.
"Under the new TV ratings scheme, all producers will be forced to create documentaries, which seem to be boring and unpopular with local viewers. This will shift local viewers to foreign dramas such as Korean [soap operas] from other media, and Thai culture will be moulded by other cultures. What the government has done is unintentional self-destruction," he said.
Pravit Maleenont, CEO of BEC World, operator of TV Channel 3, said he had a simple question to ask the government.
"Are Thai people consuming television programmes differently from other countries such as Hong Kong and the US, which have created many violent programmes?"
"We [TV producers] are the only stakeholder strictly regulated by the government. In other countries, the government has passed this kind of responsibility to TV audiences by encouraging them to have a TV chip in order to block inappropriate programming from their children," he said.
"I also believe in the personal judgement of local TV audiences about the TV programmes they consume and to identify what is good or bad. I don't think the TV programmes will completely affect their personal behaviour," he added.
Witawat Jayapani, president of the Advertising Association of Thailand, said TV viewership was falling every day as people enjoy alternative media such as the Internet.
According to the association's survey, the largest group of youths - aged four to 14 - would turn on the TV during the 7pm and 9pm slots. And the same number as these younger viewers would watch at 6pm and 10pm.
"I don't think there will be a matter of time anymore, which can segment audiences for particular types of TV content," he said.