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Deadline ambitious for Sun TV

Two opposition supporters pose with the party’s deputy leader, Kem Sokha, and their receipts after donating to an opposition television station earlier this year in Phnom Penh.
Two opposition supporters pose with the party’s deputy leader, Kem Sokha, and their receipts after donating to an opposition television station earlier this year in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Deadline ambitious for Sun TV

A new TV station funded by the opposition will be beamed into homes in and around Phnom Penh by early next year, a CNRP spokesman said yesterday, though questions linger as to whether funding can make that a reality.

“We hope to have the first programs on TV in the next three to four months,” party spokesman Yim Sovann said, adding that the company set up to run the station had purchased a plot of land in Kandal province, where it plans to build a 100-metre antennae tower.

A $3 million fundraising drive to pay for Sun TV, as the station will be known, was launched by opposition leader Sam Rainsy in May.

However, the campaign has so far attracted pledges totalling just $700,000, of which only $500,000 has been received, according to Sovann.

“We have spent $107,000 of the money we have collected so far on a 1,200-square-metre plot of land,” he said. “We need about $1 million for everything – the land, antennae and a studio.”

Running costs were still being calculated, Sovann added, insisting the station would start to broadcast however meagre the resources at its disposal.

But according to a business adviser to TV station CNC, Huy Vannak – who is also an undersecretary of state with the Interior Ministry – the opposition has massively underestimated how much cash is required.

“You need between $8 million and $15 million to start a new station,” he said. “Just the tower and the antenna cost almost $1 million, then you need a studio, office, transmitter and cameras.”

Running costs are high, too.

“For a station in Phnom Penh, you need at least 200 staff,” Vannak added. “So to operate 12 hours per day, you would need between $100,000 and $200,000 per month, covering things like power, phone costs and salaries.”

Money aside, there remain administrative hurdles before Sun TV can go on air, Sovann acknowledged.

“We are in the process of transferring the land title from the buyer to us, which takes 45 days,” he said. “We went to the government office with the land owner on November 3, so in a week or 10 days, the transfer should be done.”

Permission had also yet to be obtained for building on the land.

“Once we get the title, we will submit our plan for the antenna tower to the ministries of urban planning and civil aviation,” Sovann said.

But dealing with the involved bureaucracy – and a shortage of cash – made broadcast in early 2016 unrealistic, according to a source familiar with the opposition TV project.

“It will be six months to a year, before we can broadcast,” the source said. “Getting permission for the antenna takes a couple of months, then it’s a few months to order the tower, and a few more to build it.

“What we have now is only enough for the antenna, tower and transmitter.

We still have to find between $250,000 and $500,000 to build and equip a studio, and we don’t yet have a budget for content,” they said, while adding they had already lined up a partner for news.

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