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Government wants prior restraint on community radio programmes and satellite, cable television stations

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The Thai government announced on 14 May 2009 its plan to regulate the programme content of radio stations and cable and satellite TV stations in the country, media reports said.

The "Bangkok Post" quoted Prime Minister's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey as saying the government will ban any programme, whether broadcast over community radios or aired over cable and satellite TVs, that is politically "incendiary" and "offensive", whether coming from the anti-government red shirt or anti-Thaksin yellow shirt groups.

Sathit said these are among the proposed regulations that will enable the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to rein in the two political groups.

The proposed regulations will require community radio stations, and cable TV and satellite TV channels to seek permission for each programme being aired, Sathit said.

''Once the regulations take effect, any broadcast station airing content deemed to be politically incendiary won't be allowed to operate,'' he said.

Thai sources who requested anonymity said these tasks are beyond the NTC's mandate. However, in the absence of a body that would perform said duties, the commission might end up in charge of implementing these regulations.

Other sources described these proposed regulations as out-and-out censorship, depriving the audience of access to information.

The "Bangkok Post" said an NTC sub-committee has held public hearings on the regulations for community radio stations, and would soon hold hearings for satellite TV stations.

The sub-committee is taking into account suggestions from the public. Revised regulations are expected in June.

In a related development, Sathit said a decision on whether to allow DStation, the TV channel run by the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, to resume broadcasting would depend on the station's programme content. ''The station would be allowed to resume operations, if it wants to run general news reports.

''The regulations will be enforced even-handedly against all satellite stations,'' he added.

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