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Can TV save Cambodian culture?

If i think the style is cool, I will try to follow it. I don't take on anything I think is too sexy though

Regardless of preference for genre, we’re all familiar with watching TV, and there are many things to like about the TV programmes available in Phnom Penh. Maybe the presenter is entertaining, the content is interesting, or the creativity is impressive. However, there are just as many reasons to dislike our TV programmes. There may be too many advertisements, some of the shows simply lack substance, or some are just plain boring.

Veteran TV presenter Soun Bophanith, also known as VJ Danny, thinks he may know why there is such a great discrepancy. “There are many difficulties (involved) for a programme to operate well,” he said, “Sometimes it is not what we expected, (and) it does not turn out as well as what we think.” Soun Bophanith hosts two popular programmes in Cambodia: Pop Quiz on MyTV, “Cambodia’s first everyouth channel” targeted at young people, and CTN Dance Contest at CTN. He’s also produced and presented the well-received Cellcard Scene, a fun talk show that discusses various topics, from Kung Fu to Manga.

Soun Bophanith explained that concepts sometimes need to change and a show tested before it airs, which contribute to the inconsistency in quality. “We also have to think of a programme that we do not have already,” he said. “And then propose a concept (for) approval. Another factor (we need) to consider is the budget: budget to initiate a programme and a monthly budget.”

Heang Nicole, an 18-year-old student at the Institute of Foreign Languages, said she doesn’t watch Cambodian channels very often. “I do like some programmes on TVK and CTN,” she said, “especially Jrung Mouy Ney Komnet on Bayon. I watch foreign channels on cable TV more, because they have programmes that we don’t (have). They explore many aspects of the world, such as geography and art.”

Phal Samphors, a 19-year-old Pannasastra University student, said she likes to watch MyTV, partly for the fashion trends the channel portrays. “If I think the style is cool, I will try to follow it,” she said. “I don’t take on anything I think is too sexy though. ” Phal Samphors said that TV programmes also have educational value: “Listening to English songs can help us improve (our English listening) skills.”

Khem Sarith, the secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture, said TV channels always have a very strong impact on viewers. “Wherever it airs, there will be an impact. That’s why we are very careful,” he said. “If there is a mistake, there will be an impact, and it’s hard to turn (it) back.” Although the Ministry of Culture doesn’t necessarily have control over what is being shown, “when the Ministry of Culture feels that a particular TV show is against the belief or value of Cambodian culture, it can (terminate that) TV station,” Khem Sarith said. “It is the responsibility of the stations to decide (what they air) and be accountable for whatever happens.”

Despite the Ministry of Culture’s lack of direct control, Khem Sarith said he has noticed a love and respect for culture from TV stations. “I can see that TV stations love (our) culture,” he said. “When we (inform them of) their mistakes, they usually stop.”

Soun Bophanith said diversity is also important for TV programmes and catering to the audience. “Pop Quiz is a show for anything related to Pop, (and) we have songs from everywhere,” he said. “Most teenagers nowadays like Korean songs, but sometimes we also have Khmer songs to surprise the audience.”

On the other hand, Iep Poachean, an 18-year-old student at the University of Cambodia, sees a problem with this degree of diversity. He said that while “some of them have educational value, it can make us lose our culture if there is too much. I think the reason is because Khmer movies and songs are not so (appealing) yet; I hope they will make better ones”.



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