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Children gather around a television in their home in Por Sen Chey district
Children gather around a television in their home in Por Sen Chey district to watch a foreign show on the TLC channel yesterday. Pha Lina

Boost for local media

Some local filmmakers and media executives are calling for TV programming reform and subsidies for Khmer film and TV production after Prime Minister Hun Sen instructed his cabinet on Friday to develop a plan to boost Cambodia’s entertainment industry and reduce the prominence of foreign movies and TV.

After the recent cabinet meeting, an inter-ministry working group, headed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, will start exploring ideas to change the foreign-dominated Cambodian entertainment landscape and encourage the production of more Khmer films and TV shows.

“It’s too early to tell what our plan will be … but we’re putting Khmer entertainment first,” said Culture Minister Phoeung Sakona. “We know that foreign films and dramas should not be broadcast more than Khmer drama or movies.”

Due to lower costs and higher popularity among audiences, most Khmer TV stations opt to purchase foreign titles from countries like Thailand, China and the Philippines. Cambodia’s film industry is also mostly monopolised by foreign movies.

“Khmer films and shows have lower quality and higher production costs, so it’s easier to buy foreign dramas and films,” Southeast Asia Television director Makara Van said.

A reduction in foreign drama and film imports, Van said, could initially cripple the revenue of TV stations and cinemas, but if done gradually, could create new opportunities for up-and-coming local filmmakers.

To ensure the growth of local entertainment, Van added that the government must consider awarding subsidies for quality local films and building film academies to teach young filmmakers.

Prominent local producer Chhay Bora agreed, saying that film and TV taxes should be reduced alongside a reform of TV programming.

“If they want to increase local-made entertainment, they have to waive the taxes and look into having Cambodian shows appear in primetime slots,” Bora said. “This is the first step.”

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Information, Sakona said, are requesting the government to reduce taxes on production and screening of local films.

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