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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New Kazakh cable TV service barred by govt from launch

New Kazakh cable TV service barred by govt from launch

091008_09
Motorbikes speed past the PPCTV office Wednesday in Phnom Penh. The firm has been given an exclusive licence to operate broadband cable television in the capital, said a Ministry of Information official.

DTV Star told it cannot run new broadband cable television service in capital with disclosure that PPCTV has been granted exclusive government licence

THE Ministry of Information has barred new broadband service provider DTV Star from launching a cable television service over its fibre-optic network in a dispute that goes all the way up to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Post has learned.

San Putheary, director of the ministry’s Broadcasting Department, said Wednesday that Phnom Penh Cable Television (PPCTV) had an exclusive license to provide Internet protocol television (IPTV) via fibre to the home (FTTH) technology in Phnom Penh, thereby excluding new entrant DTV Star.

“The market in Cambodia is too small” to support other providers, he said when asked why the ministry had granted the monopoly licence.
He refused to answer further questions, referring the issue to PPCTV.

PPCTV, which has been in operation since 1995, is owned by Sok Chamreoun. PPCTV Sales and Marketing Manager Ty Phary said Wednesday his boss was “out of Phnom Penh” on business and was not available for comment.

A third cable TV service, Cambodian Cable Television (CCTV), also operates in the capital but does not use FTTH to deliver IPTV. “[The presence of CCTV] is the reason why we don’t want a third party running,” Ty Phary said.

He declined to answer questions concerning the licence, referring the issue back to the Information Ministry. He also refused to show the Post the licence, saying it had a clause preventing it from being viewed by a third party, or answer questions relating to Sok Chamreoun’s relationship with government officials.

PPCTV had not launched any legal proceedings against DTV Star, Ty Phary said, adding that any action to prevent the company from launching its services was being dealt with directly by the Information Ministry.

Previous warnings
He said the ministry had “repeatedly” warned DTV Star that its plans to offer cable television channels via its fibre-optic network would violate PPCTV’s monopoly licence.

Kazakhstan-owned DTV Star offers broadband-Internet services via its fibre-optic network under the Digi brand. The dispute came to a head after an article in the Post last month outlined DTV Star’s plans to launch later this year or early next when testing and negotiations with content providers were completed. The Post was questioned Wednesday morning by San Putheary over what it knew about the dispute.

DTV Star did not refer to the ongoing dispute at the time of the first article and refused to comment Wednesday.

The Post has learned that the Information Ministry asked the Council of Ministers for guidance on the issue in a letter dated July 20, after DTV Star requested an IPTV licence.

The original letter was not seen by the Post, but a second letter, dated July 29 and sent to Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith by Council of Ministers Secretary of State Prak Sokhon on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, shows it was seen and commented on by Prime Minister Hun Sen on July 27, before the response was formulated.

In the July 29 letter, Khieu Kanharith was told that “the government agreed to allow only the PP CABLE TV to keep broadcasting through the IPTV system, while DTV Star Ltd has to transmit its signal wave through MUDS system in compliance with the decision of the Ministry of Information”.

MUDS stands for Multi Unit Dwelling Systems (MUDS), a technology that is used to distribute a satellite signal to multiple dwellings in a geographically contained area.

A notice circulated by Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun on September 4 to relevant ministries and government offices, including the prime minister’s cabinet, reiterated the instructions from the Council of Ministers.

Khieu Kanharith declined to comment Wednesday.

A lawyer spoken to by the Post said it was not clear whether the monopoly licence violated Cambodia’s market access commitments under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which do not cover television broadcasting and distribution.

The government is free to restrict access to foreign suppliers, provided WTO members are treated equally, the lawyer said on condition of anonymity. The government also has the right to provide a monopoly to one particular supplier, provided the rules are “transparent”.

“Whether that was the case here remains to be seen,” the lawyer said.

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