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Myanmar's new television stations are in the limelight
New, free-to-air "content providers" will offer more opportunities for the introduction of TV stations in early 2018, but they could also face the challenge of a shrinking ad industry and state intervention. It is about to tackle one of its most challenging ventures to date: a free-to-air ministry within Myanmar through an uncomfortable relationship with the state.
This is one of five new "content providers" due to be launched at the beginning of 2018 - the greatest upheaval in the broadcast industry since the first licensing of commercial broadcasters more than a decade before. Myanmar station's office manager U Toe Zaw Latt said Frontier is optimistic that the free-to-air DVB channel will be a success.
In concentrating on the messages, it differs from the current stations, which have always renounced anything political because of their strong ties to the war. Fiercer competitive conditions and the possibilities of free broadcasting are a welcome diversion for those who recall the 80s and 1990s, when state MRTV was the only one.
Failure to compete means that the army regimes can alter planning as they please without worrying that the audience will move to another channel. Most have unfortunate recollections that long after the planned end of the century they had to wait for the propaganda-filled messagebulletin to watch more famous import plays like "Journey to the West".
This Act, which will remain in effect, gives the State" the exclusive right" to provide radio and TV service "as a state enterprise". It was in 1995 that the army started its Myawaddy channel, and in the early 2000s the Ministry of Information began to ease further through jointventures with privately held businesses.
MRTV CEO U Myo Myint Aung said there are now 11 free-to-air stations, among them MRTV, MRTV-4, Channel 7 - operated by Forever Group - and MNTV, which is broadcasted by Shwe Than Lwin. Favourite programs in recent years are Myanmar Idol and India's historical drama on MNTV, Money Drop and Myanmar films on MRTV-4 and Galaxy Star and Aeint Mat Sone Yar on Channel 7.
By 2015, the Radio and Television Act was passed by the U Thein Sein administration, but no statutes are yet to be drawn up that would allow the granting of further radio and television licenses. A call for tenders was launched for five "content providers", each of which was assigned a MRTV line on which they could transmit.
DVB, Mizzima Media Group, Fortune International Company, Kaung Myanmar Aung Company und Young Investment Group. Myint Aung said MRTV has drawn up agreements for media suppliers and is awaiting the agreement of the government so that they can be signe. It declined to review the contractual conditions except that broadcasters of contents must start broadcast within a year, he said.
As soon as the Broadcasting Act is fully implemented, they are supposed to become autonomous stations, said Myo Myint Aung. It is not clear whether the current situation can be supported by five new markets. Both the Mango and DVB advertisers reported that the TV ad markets were valued at $135 million in 2016, with the Forever Group accounting for the lion fraction at around 40 per cent.
Mango Media Chief Executive Officer Daw Aye Hnin Swe said spending on commercials fell 15 to 20 per cent this year and would not increase again until after the 2018 rainy period. Aye Hnin Swe said that current markets are a "very big challenge" - especially as her rivals are already well-positioned.
"These five publishers have to work really harder to develop and create new programs, because the audience can switch to another (free-to-air) channel or, if they have the cash, go on watching TV instead," she said. Whilst publishers could distinguish themselves by concentrating more on breaking newscasts, she said that broadcasters favour entertaining over breaking newscasts, because most newscasters are males.
Intelligence networks also compete with on-line messaging websites and societal medias, she said, so it takes work to build and retain authenticity and deliver persuasive contents. Also the new "content providers" are confronted with high set-up and running expenses. You must have a one-time license of K8 million (US$6,000), an annual satellites license of K7.2 million and a broadcast license charge of ATS20 million per month.
They will also have to recruit personnel, construct a studio, buy radios and probably buy contents from outside suppliers. Each of the five suppliers will be assigned its own channel. MNTV, MRTV-4 and Channel 7 remain the most common free-to-air stations. Fronttier was looking for interviewers from all five publishers to ask them these kinds of question, with DVB, Mizzima and Kaung Myanmar Aung answering on time.
Authors have different organizational stories and culture, which affects their strategy. Broadcasters DVB and Mizzima are experienced in the broadcast sector, which could give them an edge in the areas of HR and Brand Management. Fortune, Kaung Myanmar Aung and Young Investment Group are corporate groups with less radio expertise; what they have is sound finance.
In Myanmar, DVB already has a channel with satellites, while Mizzima has been providing sports, local cuisine and women's programmes for MRTV since 2013. Mizzima Media Group CEO U Soe Myint said his company's channel would contain a mixture of breaking and entertaining programmes. Contents, he said, would determine which of the new player would outlive and flourish.
We have the opportunity to be new entrants to the industry and to make improvements," he said. However, Kaung Myanmar Aung is not without broadcasting expertise. It has been manufacturing MBC Money, an on-line economic intelligence agency, since 2015. The newscast programme is broadcasted in the format of the latest headlines and documentary films, he added.
He said the organization has spent a lot of resources and resources to study in other nations to get K-Channel inspiration. Acknowledging that the number of rivals and the sluggish ad markets would make it difficult for newcomers, he said that KMA "is still in the process of identifying which is the most appropriate approach for K-Channel".
There are several advantages: it is simpler to relocate than newscasts and less political-sensitivity. "It won't be enough to take it over, so we'll be creating new content," he said. A further important question is how media suppliers will master the topic of censure - or whether it will be a topic at all.
MRTV's Myo Myint Aung said all five businesses committed to comply with MRTV's policies and guidelines when they launched their offers early this year. When the past is a guideline, publishers have caution. MRTV Cherry FM left the aether in 2015 in the midst of a battle for supremacy between then President U Thein Sein and Thura U Shwe Mann, who was then Pyithu Hluttaw spokesman.
KMA's Paing Phyo Thet Lwin said the drafting limitations would be clarified in the agreement between MRTV and the CMSs. "We have to talk to MRTV about media coverage and drafting guidelines," he said. DVB and Mizzima both voiced fears that the German authorities could unplug it if there were an increase in tension.
Should this be the case, DVB will still have its satellites while both it and Mizzima will be able to go live where they both have nearly 10 million supporters in the public network. When we can't go on TV, we'll be streaming through a variety of channels," Soe Myint said. "In recent years we have had a lot of experience with newspapers andensorship.