Reforming Thailand’s creative sector to boost economy globally

Thailand’s creative industry requires a comprehensive reform to foster growth both domestically and internationally, as emphasised by the soft power development subcommittee. The government has identified the creative sector as a crucial driver for economic enhancement and international recognition, leveraging Thailand’s soft power.

The 5F approach, encompassing Thai food, films and videos, fabric and fashion design, martial arts, and traditional festivals, has been promoted in recent years to boost cultural exports, strengthen the economy, and create jobs within the creative industry. Despite these efforts, achieving the desired outcomes has proven more challenging than anticipated.

The chairman of the national soft power development subcommittee for TV and film, Chalermchatri Yukol highlighted that the sluggish Asian and Thai economies have significantly impacted Thai media content production and export markets. The economic downturn has pressured Thai TV companies, leading some to downsize or cease operations entirely.

In May, Voice TV Co Ltd ceased broadcasting, resulting in the layoff of over 100 employees. However, the Thai film industry remains resilient in terms of revenue and quality, partly due to Thailand’s growing presence in the global film industry before the economic slowdown, said Chalermchatri.

“The Thai TV series business has shrunk significantly, which could pose a huge challenge to the government’s policy to promote soft power.”

He noted that the industry faces lower prices for broadcast distribution rights compared to other countries. Southeast Asian buyers, typically with lower spending power, contribute to the relatively low returns from overseas markets.

Thai TV series

Chalermchatri added that the revenue from selling broadcast rights for Thai TV series is roughly US$5,000-25,000 per episode, which is ten times less than the licence price of a TV series from South Korea.

A Thai film producer, director and comedian, Phetthai Vongkumlao, pointed out that despite the abundance of talent and experienced production houses in Thailand, state censorship hinders the industry’s potential.

“If we have more freedom of expression, we can tell many more stories, and the content we produce will reach more people.

The Culture Ministry revised regulations under the Film and Video Act of 2008 last year, aiming to shift the power to censor from the government to producers. This move is intended to reduce state control and promote self-regulation within the film and gaming industries, focusing on protecting younger audiences and ensuring content is age-appropriate.

Chalermchatri, also a TV and film director, stressed the importance of research and development (R&D) and innovation within the Thai film and TV industry. He urged stakeholders to study market demands, spending power, and regulations in each country to pursue overseas market growth. He cited successful case studies from South Korea, noting that Thailand must find its unique path rather than replicate others.

“Thailand can learn from successful case studies in other countries, such as South Korea. But keep in mind, we cannot replicate the accomplishments of others in Thailand as said Chalermchatri.”

Chalermchatri identified China, India, South Korea, and Japan as the leading Asian giants in cultural exports and noted that Thailand’s competitors include Taiwan, Russia, Australia, and Indonesia.

Soft power TV scheme

The government has previously initiated a soft power TV scheme, utilising government-owned channels like the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT) to present more content related to Thailand’s soft power. Prime Minister’s Office Minister Jiraporn Sindhuprai stated that the government has explored models such as South Korea’s Arirang TV, which promotes the country’s culture to a global audience.

More details on programmes will be announced to the media on July 11, as said by Jiraporn, referring to the soft power TV initiative that will feature Thai food, travel, and music content.

Chalermchatri commented that effective communication strategies and targets are essential for the government’s soft power TV initiative. He also highlighted that streaming platforms should naturally promote Thai content worldwide without enforcement, as soft power relies on audience choice.

To capture a global audience, Chalermchatri suggested the government support the private sector in promoting Thai soft power and the creative economy by showcasing locally made films at international film festivals. He also recommended developing professional negotiators to facilitate the global sale of Thai film titles and encouraging participation in world-class film or TV festivals, reported Bangkok Post.

Government support mechanisms, such as offering cash rebates to attract foreign film investments, funding cultural products with potential, and creating spaces to promote cultural products, are crucial for sustaining the creative industry. Chalermchatri emphasised that a coordinated approach involving Thailand’s educational system, businesses, government, and individual creators is essential for promoting soft power industries.

“The potential for Thailand’s creative industries to become a growth engine accelerating the country’s global standing is significant. The government must strategically increase the supply and sustainability of local talent, encourage the development of local intellectual property, and foster a robust creative ecosystem to achieve this goal.”

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Sarishti Arora

Eager to create brilliant and resonant content, Sarishti specializes in weaving feelings into compelling narratives and translating emotions into impactful words. With her Master's in Computer Application, she tackles blog posts, articles, or anything else with her technical expertise and her commitment is to capture the essence of a story.

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