6 June 2024

Voice TV has announced it is shutting down after 15 years in operation, ending an era for a broadcaster described as the main media voice of the politically powerful Shinawatra family.

In a statement released last Friday (April 26), the media outlet said it would halt operations of all its broadcast and online platforms “within May”, with no exact date given.

The “farewell announcement for Voice viewers” said the decision by management and shareholders came after careful consideration of the channel’s health and multiple crises affecting the media industry.

It said there were now numerous news providers capable of effecting change in society, adding it was confident that the roots of Thai democracy were growing.

Years of losses

Voice TV has suffered business losses for several consecutive years – accumulating a deficit of 909.8 million baht between 2018 and 2022 against total assets of 214.7 million baht, according to data from the Commerce Ministry’s Department of Business Development.

The media outlet is owned by the family of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is regarded as the patriarch of the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

Thaksin’s three children – Panthongtae, Paetongtarn, and Pintongta – in February last year transferred all their shares in Voice TV Co Ltd to fellow shareholder Bhanapot Damapong, who is the brother of their mother, Potjaman Na Pombejra.

That was just weeks before Paetongtarn, who is now Pheu Thai leader, was nominated as one of the party’s three prime ministerial candidates for the May 2023 general election.

Reason for closure?

Analysts are unconvinced that business losses are the main reason for Voice TV’s closure, arguing that the media outlet has survived despite many years of poor financial performance.
Instead, they pointed out that its closure comes at a time when the Shinawatra family’s Pheu Thai Party has regained political power and no longer needs its own media outlet, in contrast to its time in opposition.

Many fans were perplexed by the management’s decision to close after the media outlet survived multiple storms over the years, including financial hardship and political pressure.

Its supporters mourned the death of a “pro-democracy” media outlet brave enough to stand up against dictatorship following the 2014 military coup.

However, some disillusioned viewers said they had stopped following Voice TV after realizing it fell short on ethical and journalistic principles.

Critics say that now Thaksin has regained political power through Pheu Thai, he is ready to move on and cut costs by abandoning Voice TV.

Former red-shirt leader Thida Thavornseth said the Shinawatra family decided to shutter Voice TV after realizing its influence among the public was waning.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, she said Voice TV had alienated its followers – particularly red shirts once loyal to Thaksin and Pheu Thai – after its news anchors and commentators strongly defended the party following its alliance with conservative parties linked to coup-makers to form a coalition government last August.

For Thida, Voice TV’s “political and economic setbacks are even worse than its business setbacks.”

Surviving political storms

Thaksin’s son Panthongtae founded Voice TV in October 2003 during the time of his father’s Thai Rak Thai government, three years before the 2006 coup.

Originally formed under Panthongtae’s company, How Come Entertainment, with registered capital of 300 million baht, it was renamed Voice Station in December 2008 and Voice TV in June 2009.

Voice TV claims its channel reaches about 22 million households nationwide through digital terrestrial, satellite, and cable TV.

Its online news platform boasts more than 5 million followers each on Facebook and YouTube.

The broadcaster has weathered numerous political storms since the 2014 military coup that ousted the Pheu Thai-led government of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s younger sister.

During the rule of the post-coup junta, Voice TV services were suspended several times by courts and the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which issues digital TV licenses, because of content deemed controversial.

In September 2019, Voice TV ceased its digital television broadcasts after returning its digital TV licence to the NBTC due to financial issues.

It later returned to broadcasting via satellite and focused on live streaming through online platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk