Thailand suspends TV station over protests coverage

Pro-democracy protesters flash three-fingered salute during a demonstration at Kaset intersection, suburbs of Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 20 October 2020

Thailand suspends TV station over protests coverage

  • Thailand said on Monday that three other media organizations are under investigation
  • Protests have only gained momentum since the government announced a ban last Thursday and arrested dozens of protesters

BANGKOK: A Thai court on Tuesday ordered the suspension of an online TV station critical of the government, which has accused it of violating emergency measures aimed at ending three months of protests.
Voice TV had also been found to have breached the Computer Crime Act by uploading “false information,” digital ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told reporters.
Thailand has drawn criticism from rights groups for banning demonstrations and the publication of news seen as damaging by the government as it tries to end the protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the powerful monarchy.
Rittikorn Mahakhachabhorn, Editor-in-Chief of Voice TV, said it would continue broadcasting until the court order arrived.
“We insist that we have been operating based on journalistic principles and we will continue our work presently,” he said.
Thailand said on Monday that three other media organizations are under investigation.
Voice TV is owned in part by the Shinawatra family of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, who was overthrown by Prayuth in a 2014 coup. Both fled Thailand to escape corruption cases they branded political.
Street protests since mid-July are the biggest challenge in decades to the monarchy under King Maha Vajiralongkorn and to Prayuth, who rejects accusations of engineering an election last year to keep power.
The demonstrations have been largely led by youths and students in contrast with a decade of street violence between supporters of Thaksin and conservative royalists before Prayuth seized power.
Protests have only gained momentum since the government announced a ban last Thursday and arrested dozens of protesters, including many of the main leaders.
A lawyer for two of them, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, said they would be arrested again on Tuesday as soon as they had been freed on bail granted by a court over earlier charges related to the protests.
Prime Minister Prayuth has said he will not quit in the face of the protests.
His cabinet agreed on Tuesday to hold an emergency session of parliament next week about the crisis. Prayuth’s supporters hold a majority in the parliament, whose upper house was named entirely by his former junta.


Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals

Updated 25 November 2020

Abu Dhabi’s new creative hub aims to attract 16,000 film, TV, gaming professionals

  • The Yas Creative Hub will open phase one in Q1 2021 and has already sold 80% of its space
  • While Hollywood, Bollywood shut down, Abu Dhabi was one of the few global entertainment centers to remain open during COVID-19, with $100 million worth of production

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi’s new 270,000 square meter creative hub, which is set to open in 12 months’ time, is aiming to attract over 16,000 professionals from the entertainment, film, TV and gaming sectors, and position the emirate to compete with international locations such as Hollywood, Bollywood and the UK.

“Abu Dhabi is beginning to look like a mature part of the media ecosystem, not just an appendage,” Michael Garin, CEO of Twofour54 Abu Dhabi, told reporters in a virtual press conference on Monday.

“Up until now, our experience has been for people to come, work on a project, and leave. While that was a helpful step in the development of our ecosystem, it's not really what we need. What we need is for people to come here, work here, live here, send their kids to school here, and that's really the impact that the phase we've now entered will have,” he added.

The size of 40 football pitches when complete, the first phase of the Yas Creative Hub is nearly 75 percent built and will be nestled among Yas Island’s other entertainment attractions, such as Yas Marina Circuit, Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi.

Michael Garin, CEO of Twofour54 Abu Dhabi

When it opens in the fourth quarter of 2021, around 600 companies and 5000 professionals will relocate to the facility, including industry names such as CNN, Ubisoft and Unity Technologies.

Facilities will include five towers, the Arab Film Studio, a 26,000 square meter external amphitheater, a public park and 26,000 square meters of rooftop space. The campus will double the amount of studio space available in the emirate.

One of the ways the Abu Dhabi Film Commission attracts blockbuster productions to the emirate is by offering a 30 percent cashback rebate on production spend. Garin believes the new campus will help generate a higher return on investment. He pointed out that for every dirham the Abu Dhabi government spends on the rebate, three dirhams is generated in income for the emirate in spin-off revenue for hotels and associated businesses in the surrounding area.

“But once we build the sustainable ecosystem and people live here, because they can work here, that multiplier expands from three to four. Why? Because they're sending their kids to school here, they're renting apartments or buying houses or buying cars, they're spending money on food. So, the implications of this creative hub and the ecosystem that we're building transcends just the industrial impact,” he said.

Around 80 percent of available space in the campus has already been sold, and Garin, who has worked in the entertainment industry for over 40 years, said the campus has already shown proof of concept.

“We will shortly be able to announce major Hollywood productions that are already scheduled to be here… We know it's sustainable because we already know what our pipeline is for 2021. Our problem now is not to bring in the productions, our problem, and our challenge… which we're addressing aggressively, is to have enough facilities for the productions that want to be here,” he said.

During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, studios in the US, UK and India shut down production, while Abu Dhabi was one of the few entertainment destinations to continue operating and around $100 million worth of production actually took place at Twofour54’s facilities during the pandemic.

Katrina Anderson, director of commercial services, said Twofour54 also supported companies struggling during COVID-19. “We've done COVID support packages. We haven't just put payments on hold, because then if you put it on hold, people still have to pay that back,” she said.

“So we actually provided rental relief to partners, SMEs, entrepreneurs, any of the areas that we’re really trying to grow, provided they have been with us and they are partners on campus and they meet certain criteria. But we’ve helped so many partners, I think it’s over one hundred we've provided rent relief to and support to,” she added.

Katrina Anderson, director of commercial services

Abu Dhabi has hosted high-profile productions such as Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, Fast and Furious 7, Brad Pitt's War Machine and the US soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, but with the opening of the Yas Creative Hub the emirate will be hoping to attract even more blockbuster names and become one of the top entertainment capitals of the world.