Somkiat questions TPBS deal



SOMKIAT Tangkitvanich, a drafter of the law to set up the Thai Public Broadcasting Service (TPBS) in 2007, yesterday raised ethical questions about the station’s investment in debentures from Charoen Pokphand Foods, a powerful agro-industrial conglomerate.

Somkiat, now a noted economist and president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, said there may not be a problem with the purchase of bonds from a private company from a legal perspective, but the public TV station might have made a symbolic gesture suggesting its “support” for the issuer.

He said Article 11 of the Thai Public Broadcasting Service Act clearly states the seven primary income sources of the non-profit station, including investment benefits.

Overseas, it was common for public organisations to invest in the capital market, he said, as the return from bank deposits is usually low.
But the next question, he said, was whether the station’s purchase of CPF debentures would compromise its independence in news reporting.
He saw the purchase had made the station a debtor of the company, not an investor or shareholder. It would receive regular income from the debentures as if it had deposited the money with a bank.

It was unlikely that the station would compromise any of its independence, he said. But it had ethical responsibilities to consider also.

Based on the position of the station as a public broadcaster, plus its past performance and social responsibility, the station should review its purchase, Somkiat said.

But Thai PBS director Krisda Rueangareerat defended the Bt200-million investment, saying the annual Bt2-billion budget from “sin taxes” wasn’t enough to run the station.

First published: The Nation on Wednesday, March 15, 2017