Broadcasting body looks to improve disaster warnings
PHUKET: Commissioners from the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) visited Phuket today (April 26) to get public feedback on how they can improve the island’s disaster-alert communication system.
Friday 27 April 2012, 10:09AM
NBTC is an independent agency that regulates frequencies for broadcasting and telecommunications.
Supinya Klangnarong, former Thai media rights advocate and now a commissioner of the NBTC, said the agency was concerned about the problem of jammed telecommunications and limited access to information during the tsunami evacuation on April 11.
The communication problem of April 11, she said, was a special case, because the tsunami alert coincided with the cremation ceremonies for HRH Princess Bejaratana, which was broadcast live on all Thai TV channels.
Ms Supinya said the NBTC had contacted all of the channels to ask for their cooperation in broadcasting the tsunami warning as a matter of urgency.
However, only two Thai channels broadcast the alert immediately. The remainder continued to show the royal ceremony, though some ran the warning as a line of text across the bottom of the screen.
“Our request [to broadcast the tsunami alert] was not a command, so the TV channels had the right to decide for themselves whether or not to broadcast the alert,” said Ms Supinya. “I’m not criticising this. It depends on the individual broadcasters’ judgment as to what they regard as the top priority.
“However, if a tsunami had hit the shore, we would have seen more losses [if people could not get access to information].”
This concern has prompted NBTC to begin drafting a new law making televised broadcasting of disaster alerts mandatory, with sanctions for broadcasters who don’t comply.
The draft will take around two months to complete, Ms Supinya said, and several more months, at least, will elapse before it emerges from the due process required to bring it into law.
She said that other alternatives to get around the problem of jammed communications were also being looked at.