HONG KONG — Thailand’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered iTV, the country’s only private-sector network, to pay an astonishing 94 billion baht ($2.67 billion) fine and to increase its news, information and education programming.
Fines, if paid in full, would almost certainly bankrupt the company formerly owned by deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Company said it would up its factual programming from 65% to 70% immediately. But it made no comment about the penalty.
In June a lower court overturned a previous judgment that had allowed the net to cut news and info to 50% of airtime and imposed fines that grow by 10% of the net’s concession fee for every day that they remain unpaid.
Wednesday’s Supreme Court upheld the June decision.
ITV is now controlled by Temasek, the Singaporean investment group that controversially bought most of Shinawatra’s assets between January and March this year. Shinawatra was removed from office in a bloodless coup on Sept. 19.
Thai media sources expect the company to enter discussions with the government to try to negotiate the fine down to a more manageable level.