THAILAND: Radio groups demand 20% of frequencies

National Federation of Community Radio also wants fair distribution of radio frequencies among the provinces and television stations established to meet the needs of locals

Bangkok Post
Friday, July 10, 2009

By Mongkol Bangprapa

Community radio supporters are demanding the government allocate civic groups at least 20% of radio frequencies under the new broadcast laws.

In a submission prepared by the National Federation of Community Radio (NFCR), the supporters insisted that allowing the people wider access to the frequencies was guaranteed by the constitution.

Their demand was handed yesterday to the House committee vetting a bill on frequency management and supervision of radio, television and telecommunications.

It was submitted to the committee through its acting chair, Democrat Party MP Phusdee Tamthai.

She was given the NFCR submission by Suthep Wilailert, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform.

Mrs Phusdee said the submission called for the protection of the rights of community radio operators to use the frequencies.

The demand for 20% of the frequencies was one of three the group forwarded to the committee.

It also wanted the agency in charge to ensure a fair distribution of radio frequencies in all provinces. Television stations should also be set up to cater to the needs of people in their own areas.

The group insisted the master plan on frequency management and the criteria for issuing broadcast licences for radio and television should contain content that was useful to a wide variety of interests.

That would include education, religion, art, culture, folk wisdom and the promotion of good understanding between the state and the people, Mrs Phusdee said.

The Thai Local Radio Vocation Association also submitted a protest letter to the committee's secretary over the plan to auction broadcast frequencies.

The association claimed auctions would allow wealthy investors to snap up frequencies. Local civic groups would not be able to compete with major media businesses, particularly international conglomerates.

Auctioning would raise the operating costs of each community radio station. That would result in pushing up advertising rates, the association said.

The association's demand was supported by Supinya Klangnarong, a media reform activist and a House committee member.

Ms Supinya urged the committee to set clear guidelines to prevent major media businesses from dominating the frequency auctions at the provincial level.