THAILAND: Government 'failed to back' children's TV

Children's programme producers ask the government's help in enforcing the government's prime time television decree

Bangkok Post
Sunday, December 19, 2004

By Anjira Assavanonda

Academics, activists and producers of children's television programmes want the government to act against the management of army-run Channel 5 for pulling family and children's programmes from prime time.

They say Channel 5's decision to remove two programmes, namely Samruat Loke (World Expedition) and Baan Lek Thi 5 from next year's schedule, as well as shifting This is Thailand from evening to morning, was against cabinet's resolution last year to promote family programming.

The producers of the three programmes have cried foul, saying they were treated unfairly since their programmes offer useful information to families and children.

"We started This is Thailand during the economic crisis in 1997, hoping to boost public confidence that our country still had many good things to admire. Now we are being moved to a morning slot, which is viewed mostly by house-wives who are not our target group, and I don't think we can do that,'' said Yuwadee Boonkrong, managing director of Media of Medias Plc, producer of This is Thailand.

The cabinet resolution on Nov 4, 2003 required all television stations to air children's programmes for at least one hour each day during prime time, from 6pm to 10pm.

However, Ms Yuwadee said, despite the government decree, hardly any television channel has bothered to put children's programming on during the prime time hours.

"The operators would say the ratings for children's programmes are poor, and drama or comedies often earn higher ratings. This is sad, because television is an effective media that can reach into everyone's bedroom. But ask yourself what you get from watching every channel today,'' said Ms Yuwadee.

Amornphat Chomrat, managing director of Next Step Co Ltd, producer of Samruat Loke, or World Expedition, said it is regrettable that television today is used mainly for entertainment though it can be a much more useful tool to educate children.

"What we're doing today is providing children with learning capital that they can use as they grow up in the next 20-30 years. World Expedition has been aired for more than five years, and we have received letters from the audience who thanked the programme for giving them time to share with their families. It's sad that all we've done has to be stopped now,'' said Mr Amornphat.

Chorphaka Viriyanon, ex-producer of the programme Ni Lae Cheewit (This Is Life), said despite the government's promise to support children's programming, it is useless if the structure of the television industry is not changed.

"You dump these children's programmes to compete with other entertainment in the same market. That's the wrong matchup,''said Ms Chorphaka.

To solve the problem, she urged the government to financially support the producers and set times for every channel to simultaneously air children's programmes.

Besides, she said, there should be a review of the ratings system. The current process appears to lack transparency and probably favours certain groups of operators, Ms Chorphaka said.

The group plans to submit a petition to Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng on Tuesday, and vowed to continue pushing for government to effectively enforce the resolution.