By Special Contributor Tammy
Big Surprise Proves Very Big:
As nearly every Thai media, is saying that Taksin’s big 60th birthday surprise is all hype and no substance, Thai Rath, a local newspaper that is neutral reported that Taksin’s big surprise is a satellite TV comprising of about 100 channels-with some that will focus on Thailand.
Taksin’s TV: A Global Player
But to those that have been following Murdoch, the billionaire head of News Corp that controls Star TV, an Asia centric cable channel, the Taksin news comes at little surprise-and that is because there have been rumors of Taksin cable TV activities for months now.
That rumor, accumulated into a massive re-organization at Star TV, that have seen its popularity fallen. The news of a massive re-organization of Star TV occurred only a week before Taksin made public the announcement in Thailand yesterday.
While Thailand’s current government will likely block Taksin’s TV in Thailand, media executive said that Taksin will very much control how the news on Thailand is presented globally.
Taksin TV plan for Thailand includes channel that will promote Thailand’s small to medium enterprises and community handcrafts products. Taksin TV wil also carry many of the channels that support Taksin in Thailand-such as Red TV. Red TV has been highly popular globally with Taksin supporters who are located in many countries.
Taksin’s TV initiative follows many Taksin print media launch in Thailand-at a time when the Thai government is blocking many many of pro-Taksin media outlets. The Thai government has been greatly criticized of its media censorship activities, that have seen the entire board of the Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand charged with lese majeste laws violations.
The Financial Times Summarizes the Re-organization:
The re-organization move will involve a sharp cut in jobs in Hong Kong and the rest of the region, according to people familiar with the matter, as the group aims to cut costs and consolidate overlapping operations.
Star’s Indian operation, which generates the most profits for the group in Asia and reports to Hong Kong, will become independent and start reporting directly to James Murdoch, who is based in London, where he has been head of News Corp’s Asian and European operations since 2007.
Under the Asian plans, News Corp aims to eliminate overlap between Star, which operates 60 channels in 13 languages and is distributed in 53 Asian countries, and Fox International Channels, which distributes the cable networks FX, National Geographic and other channels in the region. The plans, yet to be finalized, are part of News Corp’s global rethinking of its business at a time when media consumption has drifted online. It is aiming to control costs across its portfolio after reporting a 47 per cent decline in operating profit in the first three months of the year.
Taksin TV Plans:
Taksin, who made a fortune in Thailand’s telecom business, entered Thai politics and was pushed out of power by a military coup. Much of his wealth is tied up in Thai courts that accuse him of corruption. However, Taksin subsequent business activity indicates that he has control of substantial finances-outside Thailand. Part of his former telecom empire that is now sold to Singapore’s state own Temasak, owns many satellite that are built especially for TV broadcast business. Taksin also has strong relationship with many key business interest groups in the Middle East.
Many media executives, who have known of the Taksin plan, indicated that Taksin will be a strong competitor for Murdoch for a variety of reasons. These are focus namely on perception that Taksin is an Asian and a highly skilled telecom executive.
Some media executive said in private however, that Taksin future is uncertain, as he is under arrest warrants in Thailand, and continues to have political ambitions. “Either he gets arrested or becomes the next Thai prime minister. Both will hurt his focus on business,” said a senior media executive in Thailand.
Thai Media Executives: “Likely Government Response”
- Use the state controlled “Thai TV Global Network” to counter Taksin TV
- Block Taksin TV in Thailand
- Pressure Temasak to deny Taksin access to its TV oriented satellites
- Isolate Taksin in the Middle East with diplomatic pressure
- Pressure Asian governments against Taksin
- Encourage an alliance between Thailand’s True Cable TV, that is highly pro-government, and Star TV
Star TV Background:
Star-TV is one of the most prominent regional satellite and cable television operations in the world. Its coverage footprint reaches from the Arab world to South Asia to East Asia. It carries global U.S. and British channels as well as channels in Mandarin and Hindi targeted at regional audiences defined by language and culture, and in so doing has helped define a new type of geo-cultural or geo-linguistic television market that stands between the U.S. dominated global market and national television markets.
Fully acquired by Rupert Murdoch by the end of 1995 Star now forms a central part of his global media empire. In both news and culture, Star-TV is as challenging to some governments as United States imported programs and news have been. In 1995, Star-TV reached 53.7 million television households in 53 countries in English, Mandarin, and Hindi.
In 1994, Murdoch removed the BBC World Service news from the northern part of Star’s coverage area over China because its content offended news-sensitive China.
Star-TV represents a very direct challenge to several Asian governments that have tended to restrict the inflow of information. Burma, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have made reception of Star essentially illegal. China requires a restrictive license for satellite reception dishes, although many individuals and cable systems continue to receive Star’s offerings. India and Taiwan supposedly require licenses but permit both individuals and cable systems to receive it openly. Most other countries regulate redistribution via cable TV or apartment building antenna systems (SMATV) but are essentially open to Star and other satellite channels.
Star TV Political Heat:
Murdoch, a Jewish, also got into hot water for using Star TV for political purpose on many occasions-particularly on the issue of Israel and Arab relations..
But Star TV has large followers in the Middle East. Star-TV is half owner of its sixth channel, Zee TV, which offers Indian-produced Hindi-language programs. Zee reaches more than 25% of the total TV households in India and a significant viewership in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Another example of channel targeting by audience and culture comes as Star-TV has begun to refine several versions of its Channel V music channel for different regions of Asia.