TV, "True Visions"/UBC Cable TV, Satellite TV

The main "cable" provider is a company called True, and their cable service is called "True Visions". It is often called "UBC" because that was the name of the previous company which True bought up (United Broadcasting Corporation). The website about all the programs is:

TrueVisionsTV.com

In Bangkok, few buildings and neighborhoods have "cable" TV like in many western cities, and you depend upon a small satellite dish only about a meter in width which you the "cable" company will affix to your roof (often attaching the cable to the side of the building, such as down a corner), apartment terrace, or condominium roof such as in the photo on the left. You may have a coaxial cable connection on your wall, but that's usually just to an antenna on the roof for radio or Thai TV, or possibly a satellite dish to an alternative satellite. For some reason, True hasn't made arrangements with many (if any) buildings to have one dish to many residents. There is also no TV cable going down the street on telephone poles for tapping. (Maybe True thinks the future is in telephone twisted pair wire, or something else.)

Most people get just the regular satellite TV which True offers. However, it may be worth mentioning that True is also one of the two competing phone companies in Bangkok, and another website of theirs for their high speed internet advertises their IP TV (so-called internet TV), at TrueCorp.co.th/[long subdirectory]. See also their specialized IPTV website, www.truetv.in.th/en

True has many shops at malls and some superstores where you will find people taking their number in the queue to pay phone bills and order internet and satellite TV service, and you can usually get what you want there for TV service with minimal documentation (but phone and internet require more documentation).

When you subscribe, True Visions mails you a monthly magazine which gives you the programs for all channels. Alternatively, on the True Visions website, you can search the schedule for keywords, or browse the schedule, all from highlights and search page of the True Visions website.

True Visions offers different sets of channels at different prices. (Your subscription is linked to the serial number of the decoder box they give you. You can upgrade at any time.) Their programs include lots of movie channels, cartoons, western sports (European soccer, some US basketball and football, other stuff), and educational channels like Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet, and The History Channel.

As of early 2009, here are the costs and clickable links to the English language pages on the TrueVisionsTV.com packages in Bangkok:

Platinum

2000 baht

All channels. More movie channels than Gold.

Gold

1413 baht

Incl. National Geographic, History Ch., Discovery, Animal Planet, CNN, BBC, and kids channels (incl. the popular Cartoon Network, among others). Some movie channels removed relative to Platinum, but still has some.

Silver

750 baht

Cuts out the educational channels and news channels listed above in Gold, as well as cutting out sports channels included in both Gold and Platinum, adds back some movie and entertainment channels not in Gold but cuts out other movie and entertainment channels in Platinum.

Knowledge

340 baht

Cuts out practically all English language channels and the above, providing mainly just Thai channels (which are included in the above).

Most expats choose between Gold and Platinum.

The above are the monthly fees to connect one TV. Additional TVs can be connected at just 283 baht per point per month for all packages.

They say that installation is at the "special" price of 1000 baht, but this has been the special price for a long time now.

A few channels exist in Japanese, French, and Russian (especially in Pattaya).

There are various other satellite TV providers in the Asia region, but they're not well supported all over Thailand as far as I can see (and please correct me if I'm wrong). Most people all around Thailand just use True/UBC. However, you may find alternatives in your area.

Without satellite or cable TV, you are restricted to a half dozen Thai language channels with just an old style antenna.

Like American TV, the brighter side of Thai TV is some of the commercials, which have great graphics. Given the value and cost per second of advertisements, that makes lots of sense (or lots of cents). Indeed, I'm aware of several American companies who have outsourced their advertising graphics offshore to Thai companies.

However, all this doesn't matter much to foreigners, since Thai TV is in the Thai language, and since most readers can't understand Thai well, then you will only be interested in getting English language TV. There is plenty of that, but only in cable and satellite TV.


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It has always amazed me how many primetime TV shows and movies are about ghosts, and how many Thais believe in ghosts -- the vast majority! I've known adult women who have insisted on sleeping with the lights on and/or not wanting to sleep alone, because they are afraid of ghosts, and this includes professionals! I must keep telling my daughters that ghosts do not exist and it's just TV. How many people in this world have actually seen a ghost? When do you hear about it on the news or in the daily press? This is a good lesson to kids to not believe what they see on TV or what the majority of other people may believe.

It has also disgusted me to see so many "couch noodles" (akin to western "couch potatoes") sit around watching the TV all day and night. I restrict how much TV my daughters can see.

I believe that the development of creativity in people is bypassed by this multimedia society where stimulation is coming from many places, and any slightly bored moment can be ended by switching a channel or pushing an on-button, whether it be a TV, a computer, or that beloved mobile phone. Kids these days do not learn to be self-reliant for solutions like in previous generations, and someone else's solution is just a Google away. Thais do not tend to question the authorities, either.

One interesting difference I see between Thai soap operas and western ones is that the Thai soaps show a lot of screaming, fighting people whereas many western soaps in some countries show people under control and relatively diplomatic under stress. (Not movies, but soap operas.) In real lives, the opposite is often true -- Thais aren't allowed to lose their cool like that in public, whereas western people often need to be more self-controlled and diplomatic in their words. It's like the soaps show different worlds depicting scenes which people wish they could play out.

The Thai soap operas overwhelmingly are about ostentatiously rich people.

(My Thai wife and I run a property company and we often drive around nice neighborhoods, where we see some of the houses used to film these soap operas. They invest a whole lot of money into these studios!)

I find chronic TV soap opera watchers very irritating to be around. They usually have little or no creativity, often get moody and depressed after long TV watching spells, and are just boring people. Which is cause vs. effect, I don't know. Do already dumb people tend to watch stupid TV soaps more, or does too much Thai TV as a kid dull creativity and initiative?

When TV was invented and began to be sold on the mass market in the 1940's, visionaries saw a great tool for bringing equal education opportunity to the masses, and other great things. What they did NOT see was "lowest common denominator" mass market forces resulting in very little educational TV, but instead domination by physically attractive sex symbols, mindlessly ostentatious soap operas, banal violence, and news channels which focus on negative events in the world of little relevancy to practical matters.

If you think American TV is mostly trash, then Thai TV will show you new depths.

Most of the Thai TV channels are technically owned and operated by the military, which sells air time to various media companies.

After the 1991-92 military coup and subsequent civilian takeover, a new TV channel was created called iTV, for independent TV. It became very popular among Thais and was quite high quality. However, in 1999 when the upcoming multibillionaire Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra was funding his plan to take over Thailand, one of the things he did was gain a controlling interest in iTV in the year 2000, and as expected its news became biased and the journalists whose loyalty couldn't be bought were fired or marginalized.

Dr. Shinawatra called for more educational TV and for awhile pushed it despite resistence by popular trash TV sellers. The ratings of iTV fell and stock holders have pushed for more soap operas, game shows, etc., often complaining that Dr. Shinawatra just doesn't understand the media market. Eventually, even he gave in over time to pressures.

In 2003, PM Thaksin said he would ask the state-run TV stations to produce more educational broadcasting from 6pm to 10pm, and wants some primetime TV soap operas, game shows and talk shows to change their content, focussing more on education, children and family concerns. His success there was limited.

Around the time when Prime Minister Shinawatra lost favor in public opinion and was overthrown by a military coup in 2006, iTV went thru similar transformations and this is an ongoing soap opera of more serious sociopolitical proportions.

However, now there is a lot of pressure from public groups to limit the amount of sex and violence on Thai TV, which has been growing over the years. A ratings system and various regulations are under serious discussion as of mid-2007 (the time of this writing).

Perhaps old versions of Sesame Street could be dubbed into Thai and rerun on Thai TV. (However, please don't use the same two interpreters who seem to do a majority of all translated shows and movies -- the same two people nearly all the time. I can't imagine that these two people talk in this same voice normally in their lives. Always the same tone, and just doesn't match the programs. They would make a Sesame Street launch fail.)


As covered in the section on moving, shipping tips: "Do not bring a TV from the U.S. unless it can do PAL-2, and from other countries you may have some problems. There are video systems which can do all the main standards of the world, but there are many which cannot. The TV system in Thailand is PAL-2, system B/G, like much of the world, not NTSC as in the U.S. There is PAL-1 and PAL-2 (or I/II) in the world. Not all PAL systems will work fully in Thailand. For example, the UK uses PAL-1, and the Thai PAL-2 system is similar but has a different sound carrier frequency. Germany uses PAL B/G, but Thailand doesn't use NICAM, though some channels use the German Zwietone system. This topic is way beyond the scope of this article on what to ship, so if you really, *really* want to bring your video system, do some research first." Also, Thailand is a 50 Hz power country, and this affects some imported video equipment designed for 50 Hz.




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