THAILAND: Community radio tops NBC's agenda

Newly elected Commission to discuss disruptions posed to radio, television and aeronautical radio frequencies by community radio

The Bangkok Post
Friday, September 30, 2005

By Mongkol Bangprapa

The seven commissioners-elect of the National Broadcasting Commission are set to start work on the problem of community radio amid worries about their future as the Administrative Court will decide on the legitimacy of the process that selected them. On Tuesday, the Senate voted seven of 14 finalists onto the NBC. The seven, who can take office only after their nominations receive royal endorsement, are Pichian Amnartworaprasert, Gen Thongchai Kua-sakul, Boonlert Supadilok, Supong Limthanakul, Pana Thongmee-akhom, Supatra Suparp, and Sopha Chupikulchai Chapilman.

However, their future still hangs in the balance as unsuccessful candidate Pramut Sutabut has asked the Administrative Court to nullify the selection process, and Pithaya Wongkul of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform has warned of legal consequences if the prime minister submits the selection for royal endorsement.

Mr Boonlert said the seven met on Wednesday to discuss a requirement to resign from state agencies or broadcasting companies within 15 days of the vote. They would wait for the PM's Office to receive the Senate's confirmation letters and the prime minister to submit the nomination for royal endorsement.

Mr Boonlert said they would first work on disruptions posed to radio, television and aeronautical radio frequencies by community radio frequencies and then prepare a broadcasting master plan which would require public hearings. They also discussed the agency's structure.

Mr Pana, who was accused by activists of being close to some media tycoons, said unbalanced news reports or criticism could complicate the future of the commissioners-elect if they wanted to withdraw like auditor-general nominee Wisut Montriwat did.

``I want the media to follow up the case brought by Mr Pramut to the Administrative Court to find out where it is now and if the selection panel follows suggestions in the Supreme Administrative Court verdict. They should not report only criticism that the selection panel had problems and that we lack qualifications.

``I must quit my current job. If there is a problem like in the case of Mr Wisut, who will take responsibility?'' he asked.

Mr Pichian said he was not worried because he trusted the Administrative Court's discretion and thought it was unfair for Mr Pramut to take action long after he had failed the selection.

Mr Supong and Mr Boonlert believed the criticism would not affect their work since they were all well-qualified, experienced, determined to work with transparency with the aim to reorganise, not control, the management of frequencies.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Visanu Krue-ngarm said he believed the case might not end up like the nomination of the auditor-general.

Asked if the prime minister could delay the submission of the selection for royal endorsement until a court verdict was handed down, the deputy prime minister said the government had no right to do so as it would be accused of interfering in judicial work and violating His Majesty's power.