The opposition party wants to deliver its political message directly into the homes of ordinary Cambodians, and it appears it is prepared to adopt shrewd measures to obtain the broadcasting licences that would allow it to do so.
Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday that as the party was unlikely to receive a TV licence if it applied for one directly, it could move to set up a private company with sympathetic investors which would apply for a licence on its behalf.
“We don’t know yet, [but] if [Minister of Information] Khieu Kanharith blocks us, it is very easy for us to ask somebody to create a company and then apply for the licence,” he said.
“Like what the [Cambodian People’s Party] has done [in the past], we have to do similar.… The Ministry of Information has granted licences to CPP-affiliated [companies], so why not for the CNRP?”
Although Sovann insisted that a number of well-heeled businessmen would be prepared to back such a venture, he declined to name them.
A demand for television and radio licences was one of 10 opposition requests adopted at a “People’s Congress” last month.
All TV stations are either controlled by or aligned with the ruling party and will allegedly not sell airtime to the CNRP.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said via email yesterday that Beehive Radio had made statements supporting the CNRP and “thus, the CNRP [has] its own radio already”, and said that it was “too late” in response to whether the opposition could obtain a TV licence.
Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap struck a different tone, however, saying that it was the “right” of the CNRP to run a TV station if it followed the law and were granted a licence.
“I think that there will be no problem for them if they have a private company that sponsors them,” he said.
The opposition this week launched CNRP TV, which it bills as an “online TV station”, but which has thus far simply released interviews with lawmakers and videos of press conferences.
CNRP public affairs head Mu Sochua said yesterday that the CNRP TV was still under trial but that both it and any future TV station would provide balanced coverage.
“If we want to bring in money from [the] private sector, that’s exactly why we have to be balanced and show professionalism and credibility and [not be] a party TV.”
Sochua could not say whether any future station would retain the name “CNRP TV”.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh, director of the Cambodia Institute for Media Studies, said the CNRP could “slip through the licencing process” by using a private company if it kept its political affiliations quiet – something that spokesman Sovann said it would not do.
“If [the government] knows that the station is aligned with the opposition party, they will not allow this station to open,” Chhean Nariddh said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHHAY CHANNYDA AND VONG SOKHENG