Monday, January 14, 2008

TITV workers remain concerned about jobs

Public TV channel launched

TITV workers remain concerned about jobs


All TITV programming went off the air shortly after midnight, replaced by Channel 11 shows, when it became an ad-free public television station, amid concerns about job security for its staff. The move came after the Thai Public Broadcasting Service Act came into force yesterday. The law paves the way for the establishment of a five-member board to govern and set the direction of the station.

The committee, nominated by Prime Minister's Office Minister Khunying Dhipavadee Meksawan, will be approved by the government today.. It will spend at least six months planning programme content in line with the public television principle and recruit staff to work for the station.

As the law took effect, Channel 11 was ordered to take over the transmission of TITV by broadcasting prepared programmes with no commercial breaks, said Public Relations Department director-general Pramoj Rathavinij.

The programmes include documentaries about the late Princess Galyani Vadhana and in-stock foreign documentaries, which would be on air over the next few days, he said.

TITV was launched in 1995 as iTV with a 30-year concession from the Prime Minister's Office. It was the country's first UHF channel.

After a lengthy dispute over non-payment of concession fees to the Prime Minister's Office, the station was taken over by the Public Relations Department last year and renamed TITV.

PM's Office permanent secretary Chullayuth Hiranyawisith said in a letter to Mr Pramoj that his department must ensure the station abides by the ban on advertising.

Mr Pramoj and Mr Chullayuth both said they were confident the selection of the five board members would benefit TITV and ensure a smooth transition.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, a research director at the Thailand Development Research Institute who played a role in launching the public television station, admitted on a radio programme that it would take some time for things to settle at the station.

But he insisted that viewers would eventually benefit from having an alternative news and information source other than mainstream commercial media.

TITV employs 835 staff. About 200 employees resigned or were recruited by other stations when it was under the control of the Prime Minister's Office. The future of the current staff remains uncertain. It will be decided by the board, in due course.

TITV staff yesterday criticised the government for failing to make clear their job situation despite repeated requests that it do so.

Thapanee Eiadsrichai, a political reporter at Government House, said she did not know where her career was heading now.

''We love this station and this job. That's why we continue to work for it,'' she said.

Boonlert Manosujjaritchon, also a political reporter, said he was ready to re-apply for the job and called on those responsible for the newl public television station to come up with an employment policy as quickly as possible.

Mr Chullayuth said there would be a change in the number of staff, except for television technicians.

Tripop Limpapath, who hosts a show, reiterated his opposition to TITV being converted to a public station, and said he would make a public announcement today.

He said the station should stick with the old format, which allows commercials.

TITV shareholders will today submit a letter to the cabinet, to show the public they disagree with the conversion of TITV into a commercial-free station.

''Why not other television channels, such as Channel 11?'' said Rattanaporn Nammontree.

Ms Rattanaporn yesterday led a group to file another lawsuit with the National Counter Corruption Commission against Khunying Dhipavadee, Mr Chullayuth and Mr Pramoj on grounds of malfeasance.

She said the three had improperly instructed state officials to seize the assets of the television station in preparation for TITV's transformation into a public station.

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