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ARTICLE 19 proposes improvements to draft law on first public broadcaster toward independence, representativeness, accountability

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 17 July 2007 ARTICLE 19 press release:

Analysis of Law to Establish First Thai Public Broadcaster

ARTICLE 19 today released its analysis of the draft Thai Public Service Broadcasting Agency Act, which seeks to transform TITV, a former commercial channel, into a public service broadcaster. If the draft Act is adopted, Thailand will become the first Southeast Asian country to put in place a legal framework for independent public service broadcasting.

The draft Act has a number of positive features. Importantly, it provides for strong guarantees for the independence of the new broadcaster, along with effective accountability mechanisms. It also envisages an innovative funding mechanism which is likely to be largely insulated against political interference and inflation. ARTICLE 19 believes that genuine public service broadcasters can make a very important contribution to freedom of expression by enhancing pluralism and by providing innovative, quality programming that would not otherwise be available.

At the same time, we believe further improvements could be introduced both to bring the draft Act more fully into line with international best practice and to make it more effective. Our key recommendations include measures to further ensure that the governing Board of Directors is independent, representative of Thai society and accountable. Specifically, we recommend that the independence of Directors be explicitly protected and that they be required to promote a clear set of broadcasting objectives, that the membership of both the Selection Committee, which nominates Board members, and the Board itself be more representative of Thai society, and that the role of the Prime Minister in appointments be clarified.

We recommend that the complaints system be improved by putting it under the control of a quasi-independent body established by the broadcaster itself, rather than the Board, by broadening the range of issues covered by the code of ethics and by providing for a wider range of possible remedial measures. We also recommend that the allocation of responsibilities between the Board and the Director be reconsidered, with more responsibility being given to the Director.

We urge the Thai National Legislative Authority to adopt the draft Act, after making amendments along the lines recommended in our analysis.

For a copy of the analysis of the draft Thai Public Service Broadcasting Agency Act, see: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/analysis/thailand-psb.pdf

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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