PSB moves ahead in Thailand
Thailand could get its first public television station by the beginning of next year.
Khunying Dhipavadee Meksawan, Minister to the Prime Minister's Office, was one of many government officials, media professionals and representatives of international organizations who gathered in Bangkok, Thailand, last week for a public service broadcasting (PSB) workshop to support the country's ongoing initiative to implement its first PSB television station.
The workshop was jointly organized by UNESCO and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association, the National Health Foundation, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and the Committee on Consumer Protection of the National Legislative Assembly. The purpose of the workshop was to inform policymakers, broadcasters and the Thai public about the importance of PSB for national development.
Eighty-six percent of Thai people get news and information from television, according to a 2001 AC Nielsen Media Index survey. This preferred method of media consumption has given Thailand the impetus to establish a PSB television channel and to draft a PSB bill. The bill was approved by the Cabinet and is now being reviewed by the Council of State. If accepted by the Council and passed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the public television could begin broadcasting early next year.
Khunying Dhipavadee Meksawan assured the workshop participants that the government was "determined and sincere about establishing the public TV station."
Mogens Schmidt, Deputy Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information at UNESCO, defined PSB for the approximately 130 people in attendance. He described how PSB is relevant to UNESCO's core mission - to promote the "free flow of ideas through words and images."
Like Schmidt, other participating experts from Australia, Japan, Canada and Germany described the ways in which PSB can be effective and how it has worked in other countries. Specific references were made to countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Brazil, India and Indonesia, where recent PSB projects have been successful.
According to the pending Thai draft bill, the public television station will not be controlled by the state. The experts recommended that a Thai PSB must have provincial branches to help produce local content and a viewers' council nationwide to help assess the station's programmes and ratings as a checks and balances mechanism.
Workshop attendees agreed that there are many opportunities for PSB in Thailand today. It can be a powerful tool for peace building, tolerance, education and empowerment.