THAILAND - The "art or obscenity" scandal over the latest episode of Thailand's Got Talent television show now threatens to expose grave violations of media ethics as allegations came out yesterday that the contestant in question had been "hired" to go on stage.
Following strong criticism of the show's Sunday episode showing a female contestant paint on canvas with her bare breasts, Thai Rath newspaper reported yesterday that Duangjai Jansaunoi, 23, had been hired by the show's producers - Workpoint Entertainment.
The news report quoted a close friend of the contestant as saying that Duangjai had been paid Bt10,000 (S$403) to help boost the show's ratings, but she did not know what she had to do until just before the show was recorded. The friend went on to say that Duangjai was not an independent artist as claimed but a nude model in real life.
Meanwhile, Workpoint Entertainment CEO Panya Nirankul dismissed the allegations in an interview on the "Reung Den Yenni" TV show yesterday, saying that he had asked around and concluded that Thailand's Got Talent producers had nothing to do with it. He explained that agents hunted down many of the contestants, which might be the reason behind this controversy.
Asked if the producers of the show had indeed told Duangjai to take her top off in order to boost ratings, Panya said Thailand's Got Talent was already successful enough so it was very unlikely.
However, he said, he had not yet spoken to the contestant or the agent who had brought her to the show, but admitted that he had made a mistake by thinking that partially censoring the image would be sufficient and promised that it would not happen again.
Culture Minister Sukumol Kunplome, who had slammed the producers for allowing the broadcast of an unacceptable show, said yesterday that Panya had called her to explain that the show had been partially censored.
She added that she had warned him that programmes should have a content-screening system to prevent such inappropriate images from being broadcast. She said that Panya had promised that such inappropriate images would not be shown again.
Somchai Sianglai, Culture Ministry's permanent secretary, said yesterday that he had instructed the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission to scrutinise Thailand's Got Talent and would write to Panya asking for cooperation and telling him to be cautious about what is broadcast in the future.
Panya had told a Monday press conference that contestants would no longer be allowed to behave in a controversial manner and that the show was only being broadcast so people could show off their talents.
However, people are still doubtful of Panya's explanations because the programme had been recorded two months ago and this bit should have been edited out, especially after Thai entertainment news had hinted about it even before the show was aired.
News agencies across the world have also picked up on the controversy surrounding the latest episode of Thailand's Got Talent.