Myanmar News Channel

The Myanmar News Channel

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Will the five new TV stations be able to live?

Stiff competitors for advertisements and proposed changes to the Broadcasting Act are among the major issues that businesses face when introducing them. Five privately held businesses entered into a collaboration contract with the state-owned Myanma Radio and Television on February 17 to act as free to-air digital channel publishers. These five are DVB Multimedia Group and Mizzima Média Co Ltd, both of which were in exil until 2012 as part of the predecessor government's reform of the Myanmar network, and KMA TeleMedia Holdings Co Ltd, which owns CB Bank U Khin Maung Aye, Fortune Broadcasting Co Ltd and My Multi Média Group Co Ltd.

Do the decisions to give the five undertakings broadcast licenses mean an improvement in terms of free access to the press? Are the five new canals going to live? These five enterprises were not granted radio licenses under a working act. Radiocommunication legislation was passed under the former Union Solidarity and Development Party in August 2015, but the laws and provisions were not made.

Under the terms of the deal that the five firms have entered into with the Ministry of Information, they will be able to transmit via MRTV's system. It is similar to the radio licenses issued by the former defence regimes by Sky Net, a privately held company held by Shwe Than Lwin Co, and MRTV-4, held by Forever Group Co Ltd.

This restricts their liberty as they operate under an arrangement with the state. Information Minister Dr. Pe Myint said at the signature ceremonies on 17 February that the National League for Democracy intends to change the Law on Radio. Pe Myint said that the laws and regulation would create a radio council to manage and monitor TV.

Memorandum of Understanding between the Department and the five undertakings expires with the entry into force of the provisions of the revised Radio and Television Act. By this date, the five enterprises are required by the Act to submit applications to run their own networks. Everything seems so incalculable and it is hard to say whether the choice to allow the five undertakings to broadcast under the co-operation agreements is a move forward for press freedoms.

One big issue about the five new stations and every station that could start in the near term is whether they can make it commercially viable. Burma has eight analogue TV stations, as MRTV, Myawaddy TV, Sky Net and Forever Group each have two of them. Since they transmit analogue, they can take the whole land.

According to a poll, approximately $200 million in revenues are generated annually from advertisements on the country's analogue and analogue television networks, with MRTV-4 and Channel 7, both of which are held by Forever Group and broadcasted in analogue and analogue formats, accounting for the lion's share. 2 million US dollars are spent on this. A further five free reception free of charge will not increase revenues from advertisements.

There will be fierce communication between the five new TV stations. Actually, it won't be simple for them to start radiating. U Myint Htwe, CEO of MRI, said at the signature ceremonies that more gear needed to be purchased and installed to be able to transmit the contents provided by the five businesses.

Businesses also have to buy and install their own cable to connect their ground units to a MRTV ground unit so that their contents can be uploaded to a spacecraft via the multi-channel playouts. It will be transmitted to 145 relays throughout the entire countryside so that the transmitters can be received nationwide.

These five businesses have to spend large amounts of money before they can be aired. These five businesses will also face high manufacturing cost, but their revenues from advertisements are unforeseeable. There is also the issue of whether it will be hard to win publicity for Dutch TV stations, which is a new standard in the state.

A further stranger is the creation of the Broadcasting Council, which is to be set up at a later date if all television operators have to request a new licence. In such a perspective, it is by no means certain that the five television stations will outlive.

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