With Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy announcing last week the launch of the opposition's long-awaited television channel later this year, some question whether the station will provide independent content as promised or act as an opposition mouthpiece. Bennett Murray spoke with Pa Nguon Teang, executive director of the Cambodia Center for Independent Media (CCIM) who had some ideas on how the CNRP may be able to reach viewers and secure investment money.
What would the CNRP’s channel gain from striving for objectivity?
If you want [it] to be sustainable, you need to run it professionally and independently. And then you can reach more audience and you can get [advertising revenue] from the business sector and other sources. For those investors who truly want to invest in independent media, or professional media, they would consider it [an opportunity]. I think the biggest concern for them is the linkage between the media and the party, and there is some doubt about the TV operation.
Would businesses be willing to advertise on an opposition TV channel?
The business people ... they always want to be seen that they’re aligned with the government, and on the side of the ruling party. But if [CNRP TV] content is professional, and they are very attractive to the clients, that can mitigate the image of the political link and attract the advertisers.
Would running independent content, free from CNRP political interference, help the opposition win elections?
If they just air and cover party activities, it is just targeting the opposition supporters who always support the opposition party. If you want to influence the public, you have to find a strategy to reach all the public as much as possible, not only those who support you, but non-supporters.
Rainsy said this week that overseas Cambodians could be a potentially lucrative source for funding. Can he count on overseas investment to fund the station?
I don’t think [money] from Cambodians abroad is sustainable. When they see the CNRP is doing good for the nation and the people, they pool their support and pool their donations. But when they see the CNRP change their policies and strategies, some people will withdraw their support.
CCIM’s Voice of Democracy news site, long known for its heavy political and social coverage, now includes entertainment news. Would you recommend the CNRP do the same?
I think it’s better to balance serious programs and entertainment. People are not always wanting to hear serious [things], their brains needs a break. Provide them the 15 minutes of news, and after that entertainment programs like comedy, or drama, or songs – a mix.
Do you think the CNRP’s channel will be independent as Rainsy promised?
I think it is hard to assess whether it will be independently run, since it is closely linked to the party. But if the leader makes such promises, let us see.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.