UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
OSC Media Aid: Thai Media at a Glance
SEF20090115463001 Thailand — OSC Media Aid in English 15 Jan 09
Thai press has a high level of freedom and does not hesitate to criticize government leaders, but most broadcasters are under state control. Internet use is increasing and provides a forum for political debate; it is, however, subject to state censorship, particularly of content that is seen as pornographic or offensive to Thailand’s widely respected royal family. Television has by far the largest audience, but Thais tend to rely on newspapers for news. According to a 2003 survey by the National Statistics Office, the some 57.9 million Thais over six years of age consume
media to the following degrees:
- Television: 94.5% (entertainment, 51.6%; news, 47.2%; other, 1.2%)
- Radio: 42.8% (entertainment, 57.9%; news, 40.5%; other, 1.6%)
- Newspapers: 37.3% (news, 87.2%; entertainment, 8.3%; other, 4.5%)
- Internet: 14.2% (entertainment, 62.5%; news and discussion, 15.8%; other 22.7%)
Most television stations are state-controlled. Channel 7 — one of two Army stations — is the most popular nationwide, while the sole commercial station, Channel 3, is the most popular in urban areas. The Mass Communication Organization of Thailand also runs a TV station, Modernine. There is one government-funded but independently controlled public station, ThaiPBS. Modernine and Thai PBS are popular for their straightforward newscasts. Mainstream radio has comparatively little influence. Small illegal community radio stations, however, play an important role in political organizing and agitation.
Newspapers are free to criticize the government and discuss most issues but occasionally exercise self-censorship due to commercial pressures. Thai Rat is the most popular daily, with a circulation of 1 million and a readership of 12 million, followed by Daily News (500,000 circulation), and tabloid-style Khao Sot (300,000) and Khom Chat Luek (100,000). For political coverage, Matichon and Krungthep Thurakit are the most popular dailies. English-language dailies The Nation and Bangkok Post provide foreign readers with useful news updates but have little influence on Thais. The growing number of Thais using the Internet are generally seeking entertainment, but the Internet has become an important platform for political discussion and criticism. Political debate is heavily polarized into pro- and anti-former Prime Minister Thaksin camps. The most popular websites are the web portals sanook.com, kapook.com, and mthai.com; hard-line anti-Thaksin news site manager.co.th; and entertainment-oriented teenee.com. State censorship, generally against websites judged as pornographic or in violation of lese majeste laws, happens frequently.