The Thai cabinet recently approved a proposed broadcasting law that can weaken community radios. While the Independent Organisation for Broadcasting and Telecommunications Bill mandates the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to support community radio, it does not maintain the current 20 per cent frequency spectrum allocation for non-profit civil society groups.
The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) also notes two other provisions which can severely affect the independence of both community radio and the NBTC. The bill limits the revenues community radios may receive, requiring that excess amount be remitted to the local government. The function of selecting the members of the NBTC is also being transferred to the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications (MIT). AMARC also asserts that no public consultation was ever made on the issue.
In a statement, AMARC president Steve Buckley urges national interventions and international support for the Thai government to reconsider, “re-instating previous commitments to an independent regulator [particularly] the 20 per cent ring-fencing of spectrum for community broadcasting which is widely considered an international example of good practice and not to introduce revenue limits on community broadcasters.”