Govt-run TV channels took 50% of total
The TDRI’s “The Public Sector’s Media Purchase” research report finds that 50 per cent of the amount was spent on TV advertising, 18 per cent on adverts at cinemas, 16 per cent on newspaper adverts, and 11 per cent on advertising via radio stations.
Three of the country’s six free-TV channels are managed by the state, while 314 of the 500 radio stations operate under state concessions. Three means – media ownership, the provision of media concessions and the purchase of media owned by the state – could therefore be used by the public sector for media intervention.
The state was able to dominate TV channels and radio stations at a relatively high level, given its media ownership, the TDRI says in its research.
However, such state domination of the media is likely to lessen, given the issuance of private digital-TV licences, the end of concessions, future liberalisation of the TV broadcasting sector, and the growth of online media.
Meanwhile, there was only slight public-sector intervention via newspaper outlets last year, as the state does not own publishing businesses, said the institute.
The research goes on to say that of total advertising expenditure last year, 93 per cent was made by the private sector and only 8 per cent by the public sector.
State enterprises contributed 48 per cent of the public sector’s advertising spend, followed by ministries at 39 per cent, independent organisations (9 per cent) and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (3 per cent).
Among state enterprises, the Government Savings Bank was the biggest spender with 18 per cent, followed by MCOT (12 per cent), PTT (10 per cent) and Krungthai Bank (9 per cent), the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat; 8 per cent), the Tourism Authority of Thailand (7 per cent), Thai Airways International (6 per cent), the Thai Tobacco Monopoly (4 per cent), the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (4 per cent), and CAT Telecom (4 per cent).
For the ministries, the Prime Minister’s Office topped the list with 15 per cent of the spending, or Bt506 million, followed by the Industry Ministry, whose Bt468-million outlay accounted for 14 per cent.
At the Prime Minister’s Office, the Public Relations Department spent the most at about Bt215 million, while the Internal Security Operations Command spent Bt40 million and the Office of the Permanent Secretary spent Bt35 million.
About Bt1.245 billion was allocated to newspaper advertising. The Education Ministry and the Tourism and Sports Ministry were the top spenders, each accounting for 7 per cent, followed by PTT, Egat and THAI at 5 per cent each and 4 per cent by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.
A comparative analysis of the spending on advertising to highlight politicians and civil servants by the Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluck Shinawatra administrations found that Abhisit’s regime used 7 per cent of its total ad budget on this type of adverts, while for Yingluck’s government the proportion was 18 per cent.
The research urges the state to introduce laws to prevent spending of public money for personal electioneering. For example, no photos, names or voices of politicians or civil servants, or logos and slogans of political parties, should appear on advertisements paid for by the state.
An annual budget plan for public relations should also be drawn up, with annual performance reports and disclosure to the general public through websites, the TDRI suggests.
Penalties are also suggested for legal infringements.
First published: The Nation, September 20, 2014