The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party is preparing to form a company to raise funds for a “CNRP-friendly” television station that it intends to launch by the end of this year.
Party president Sam Rainsy told the Post that the party is already approaching a number of potential presenters to join the channel, which – pending a “marketing study” – is likely to be called “Sun TV”.
In addition to the CNRP-aligned Cambodian Independent Media company, which was awarded the analogue TV licence in November, the party has formed a second company to manage investments into the station.
According to Rainsy, the CNRP will “start the fundraising process by the end of the month”.
Offering a “rough idea” of the time and scale of the process, he said 3,000 shares could be issued at $1,000 a piece, meaning that “$3 million could then be raised in the next few months”.
Rainsy, who is to tour the US for three weeks in May, said Cambodians living overseas are also prospective shareholders in what could be the first publicly-owned TV station in the Kingdom.
CNRP spokesman Yem Ponharith said the party had been in talks with a number of international companies interested in supporting the station.
“We need a technical team and budget so we are looking for a counterpart to cooperate with us,” he said. “We have already talked with Chinese, French and Thai companies and [we] will decide soon which company [we] will cooperate with.”
With television in Cambodia dominated by government-aligned and state-owned channels, the station was one of the CNRP’s key demands during the deadlock that followed the disputed 2013 election.
Rainsy said yesterday that plans for the station to open this year are evidence that a new “culture of dialogue” between the two parties is paying off.
“The main feature of its output is EDUCATIONAL while the spirit of the station is to be INDEPENDENT,” he said by email.
The station will “broadcast true, accurate and unbiased information … along with opinions and analyses by [the] CNRP and other organisations including NGOs, civil society organisations and other political parties”, he added.
But observers yesterday questioned just how independent a party-aligned station could be.
Kaing Tongngy, a former communication and advocacy officer for the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, said the station would “play an important role in balancing” the pro-government media landscape.
But rather than being truly independent, it may be used as a platform to respond to the Cambodian People’s Party and “tell people what the CNRP are doing”.
Political blogger Ou Ritthy said the station was designed to promote the party’s “political interests and propaganda”.
But he said that the tactic was unlikely to yield more votes at the polls, arguing that social media, which he said sets the agenda for Cambodian television, should be enhanced instead.
“For the CNRP, it’s more pragmatic and worth investing in strengthening [the] Youth Wing and equipping them with [information and communication technology] skills to pave the way for victory, rather than spending $10 [million] or $20 million for TV stations while [the] CNRP is in need of money to contest the next elections,” he explained.
To show a true “culture of dialogue”, a concept Rainsy has often promoted over the course of political negotiations, Ritthy said state-owned TVK should be reformed so that time was shared between all political parties to represent national interests.
The “culture of dialogue should not be only between Hun Sen and Sam Rainsy, but other political leaders [in] national and local politics” as well, he said.