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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Competition hits the TV airways

Competition hits the TV airways

CAMBODIAN state television TVK - whose executives insist on "pro-government"

news coverage - has been talking with Australia's ABC among others about a

joint-venture deal.

TVK (Television of Kampuchea) has approached several

foreign companies, including ABC, in a bid to modernize its station, according

to a senior official who would not be named.

TVK staff acknowledge that

its newscasts are "based on the government political line" and are

self-censored.

The TV station's desire for a foreign partner reflects the

expanding and competitive nature of Cambodia's television services.

There

are currently three TV stations: TVK; Thai-owned International Broadcasting

Corporation (IBC), which has also practiced self-censorship of political news;

and the Khmer privately-owned TV9. All three stations are largely

entertainment-oriented.

A fourth station, Kampuchea Communication Siam

(KCS), is expected to begin broadcasting soon after its new equipment is

installed.

KCS is a joint project with the Phnom Penh Municipality, which

has said the station will be designed to serve the Royal government and the

municipality.

Meanwhile, the existing three stations, all run for profit,

are increasingly changing their programming to vie for larger

audiences.

In mid January, TVK increased its air time from four hours to

nine hours per day. Movies and entertainment shows are being screened at night,

and news during the day.

Mao Ayuth, TVK's deputy general director, said

the program re-arrangement was to avoid overlapping with other stations and to

protect audience share. "We don't want to make competition, but we want to

demand more audiences."

An emphasis was put on news programs because "we

are the government television. We do whatever to let people know about the

government's efforts."

French firm Canal France International has begun a

10-minute, three day a week program on politics, economics, international and

magazine news on TVK.

The only private Khmer station, TV9, returned to

the airwaves in early January after a few months' absence to allow its equipment

to be upgraded. It screens mainly Chinese movies,  but  also provides local and

international news. Spokesman Pen Narith said the station was awaiting results

of a public survey before deciding on any programming changes.

IBC chief

Prum Kim said that, while the television business was becoming more competitive,

the company was confident of maintaining a good audience share. "I am not

excited over TV9," he said.

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