VOICE TV’s operational licence will be suspended for seven days after the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) yesterday alleged the station had engaged in repeated wrongful conduct.
It was the first time the watchdog’s axe has fallen on a licensed digital television station.
Effective from today, the decision to temporarily pull the television station off the air was made after repeated misconduct occurred in four programmes on March 15 and March 20, according to NBTC Commissioner Perapong Manakit.
On March 15, improper conduct took place in the programme “Bai Tong Hang” programme at 7.11pm under the topic “From Thummy to Thakky, Does this country continue its reconciliation?”
The channel breached broadcasting rules again in other programmes on March 20. The “In Her View” programme arranged in order the circumstances surrounding red-shirt fugitive Wuttipong Kotthammakhun, alias Ko Tee, showing a weapon, and made an assassination announcement at 7.40pm.
On the same day, the “Overview” programme aired the topics “The Army Protects Soldiers, Shoot Children. All Cases are Correct” and “Any Problems? Go Clear Up in the Department. Privileged Guys Make the Society Unsatisfied”.
The last offending item was Voice News, in Veera Somkwamkid’s opinion piece on the case of Ta Phraya gambling house at the Cambodian border at 8.13pm.
Voice TV, in which the Shinawatra clan has a stake, has seen programmes suspended since the 2014 military coup due to its harsh criticism of the junta government.
However, suspension of a station’s operational licence is rare. While the NBTC said the station had transgressed 10 times and certain programmes were pulled last year, yesterday’s licence suspension came on the back of two warnings about misconduct this year.
Perapong said that, as Voice TV had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Army, the channel should be particularly cautious about its programmes.
Given the complaints last year and this year, it was clear that the channel did not exercise sufficient caution, he said, noting that such “mistakes” were repeated many times.
The station’s harshest criticism was against Section 37 of the broadcasting regulations and National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) No 97/2014 and 103/2014 orders, which were issued to limit media freedom.
In a press briefing, Voice TV executive Mekin Petchplai said the station would appeal to the Administrative Court against the suspension and bring the case to the Civil Court, as the order would damage its business.
Channel bosses would discuss the matter internally about making the petition, Mekin said, while acknowledging that the NBTC was immune from legal action, including civil liability.
The channel receives sponsors from some 10 different advertising agencies, Mekin said. As a result of the seven-day shutdown, Voice TV would have to provide compensation to those sponsors.
However, he said the sponsors had understood the situation, so he believed the matter would be settled amicably.
In the meantime, the programme content would be broadcast via online channels both on its website voicetv.co.th and its Facebook page Voice TV 21.
Station employees would not be affected in their work, Mekin said, adding that the channel had always aired its content online in parallel with traditional television.
Mekin also clarified that the channel had always tried to comply with NBTC guidelines by adjusting the proportion of the content to balance hard-news reports with analysis.
However, the executive explained that the channel’s main approach was to give analytical views to its audience by experts from various fields covering social, political, economic and international issues.