Community Media in Thailand (PHOTOS)
In a country that’s suffered through 19 coups d’état, the latest one just last year, you may expect the future leaders of Thailand’s community media movement to be nervous about including politicians in their television programs.
And that’s exactly where they focused their questioning of me during day one of Thailand’s first three-day public conference on community media.
As I completed my presentation of the United States Case Study on how we do things in the U.S., I opened it up for questions from the 70 or so participants who gathered from all across Thailand at a hotel in downtown Bangkok. While I had a few inquires about how Montgomery Community Media’s Board of Directors was constituted and helped us with sustainability, they quickly keyed on a part of my presentation where I talked about how we welcomed politicians into our studios and helped them share information with voters. The Thais peppered me with pointed questions about how we manage candidate air times and why we even involve politicians in our programming in the first place.
One of the challenges we have as Western outsiders is we have a certain approach to free speech and media independence that is truly a foreign concept in much of the rest of the world. One other presenter today said that during coups, the overthrowers (in the 2014 coup, the Royal Army) head straight for the TV stations. Control the medium, control the message.
We all recognize the power of television and how its content can impact society. This group in Thailand understands that from experience, but also appreciates the opportunity that community media can have in grassroots news and information to a society that’s used to state-run media.
While we in the U.S. have our own challenges at our community media centers, the Thais have a different perspective on media controlled by the people. Their efforts this week could be changing the future of their country… one community channel at a time.