Most media in Cambodia focus on the achievements of the government. That’s because most stations are owned by members of the government or its supporters.
But the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is now preparing its own channel, after it was offered a license during political negotiations last year. Opposition officials expect the new station to be up and running by the end of 2015, if they can find the money.
That’s welcome news to people like Phai Sophorn, a tuk-tuk driver in Phnom Penh, who said he doesn’t like what’s on the news these days. He learns little about land grabs or human rights, he said. “There isn’t wide coverage about those issues on television,” he said. “They hide the facts about what is happening in society and only show the government’s achievements.”
The Rescue Party has long criticized the media for bias toward the ruling party. The opposition’s new station, Preah Atith, or Sun, is scheduled for its first broadcast by the end of this year, party officials said.
Its first year of operations will need at least $3 million to move forward, with about two thirds of that yet to be raised, party officials said.
Yem Ponhearith, a Rescue Party spokesman, said three companies are currently working to get the station up and running, including program production. “Preah Atith television will focus on reporting true information about society and communities, because it belongs to Cambodian people as a whole,” he said.
The station will also focus on educational programming, with the aim of developing knowledge for Cambodia’s youth, to help them analyze the country’s problems and help develop society, he said.
Sovanna, a university student said that it is normal of political parties owning television station. “The two can criticize each other’s mistakes, so people can see them clearly.”
Kem Ley, a social development analyst, said the opposition’s TV station would likely do little to change Cambodia’s current state of democracy. Stronger independent media institutions would do more, he said. The opposition would do better to work toward legislation that supports media “to work professionally and independently and to create a committee to check their work ethic.”
For driver Phai Sophorn, having an opposition TV station would be an improvement, but he suggested their programming be accurate in depicting social, political or economic issues. “It’ll depend on the programming of the television [and] whether it is independent or not,” he said. “If it’s biased, it will be the same.”