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Hot Thai dishes on the increase.

In Thailand last year, when rioting broke out on the streets of Bangkok between pro-democracy demonstrators and Thai soldiers, local television broadcasts were censored by the government. But the scenes of violence were picked up by the BBC and CNN, and within hours of their worldwide satellite broadcast, local Thais with access to a satellite dish and a VCR distributed videotapes and solicited public opinion, which helped lead to the eventual downfall of the government.

The lesson learned: Government anxious to censor their own local news are increasingly forced to kowtow to the presence of satellite TV, because even in the most harshly regulated regions, satellite dishes are proliferating. Since becoming legalized in Thailand in 1991, growth has been roughly charted from 3,000 dishes then to approximately 50,000 now.

Thailand's latest entry into the cable/satellite race is Thai Sky TV (TST), a pay TV system transmitted via MMDS (terrestrial microwaves) to over 5,000 subscribers in the Bangkok area. TST broadcasts three 24-hour channels: one Thai language, one music video channel and one entertainment-oriented in English. The service is being actively promoted by project director Richard Kwang, who explained that they launched with an MMDS delivery system because of cost efficiency and compatibility with new technology. Kwang said that while TST was initially targeted toward the higher echelon spending bracket in Bangkok, they have recently shifted their marketing strategy to reach a broader range of the population. TST purchases programming from the U.S. and the U.K., as well as Hong Kone broadcasters.

The Thailand broadcasting industry is in an expanded growth period, reported Eric D. Conrad, a distributor and buyer, and managing director, for INTEL, Bangkok. In addition to the existing five broadcast stations, he cited five new channels in the near future as a possibility, as well as the growth of Thai Sky and its cable competitor, IBC, which is launching Thailand's first satellite in November of this year, to begin broadcasting on a projected 16 dbs channels in February, 1994.

The commercial broadcasters cover all of Thailand, with its population of 58 million, as opposed to just Bangkok, which has approximately 10 million. Several of the country's million-plus population cities are ripe to have their own cable systems in the foreseeable future.

Thailand happens to be in the direct center of the STAR footprint and though that is rather difficult to ignore, segments of the population with satellite dishes do aim them elsewhere. Ten per cent of the Thai population is Chinese and can pick up Chinese satellite signals, while others are pointed at the Indonesian Palapa satellite.

Has STAR impacted the growth of the Thai TV business:? "For your run of the mill programs -- the Oscars or the Emmys or a major sporting event which STAR covers -- that we would not broadcast locally head to head in competition with STAR right now," said Conrad. "Our growth is in five new broadcast channels and 16 new satellite challens, and most likely in increase in cable. The government is relaxing a lof of its restrictions on who gets licenses. And 99 per cent of the population speaks Thai and the programming is going to reflect that."

Conrad, who handles programming for a number of countries in Southeast Asia, reflected on the potential growth of local product in the international marketplace. "Each of the countries in Asia is very unique," he noted. "There is no program that has ever been produced that is successful in all of the countries, and there's hardly anything produced by any country that is not popular in at least on other. You're going across a large spectrum of cultures religions. You can't find a program that's popular the whole way across."
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Title Annotation:satellite dishes in Thailand
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Words:621
Previous Article:Illegal 4th net changes TV landscape.
Next Article:Censorship, copyrights and constraints.
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