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Govt moves on Thai-owned TV station

Govt moves on Thai-owned TV station

C AMBODIA'S first private television company, the Thai-owned International

Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), is trying to sell its station because it was

losing money and was faced with "impossible" conditions from the government,

according to General Manger Pichai Chand-Aium.

Information Minister Ieng

Mouly told IBC that a Cambodian partner must take 51 percent of the station's

ownership, or else its 30-year contract would be halved and its tax-exemption

importing status canceled.

Pichai said that the station was losing

$40,000 each month in the last two years.

Advertising revenue has dropped

roughly 80 percent since United Nations troops withdrew from Cambodia and in the

face of two competitors: state-owned TVK and the former Funcinpec station

TV-9.

He said IBC in Bangkok would not accept the government's proposal

and wanted to sell the entire station. He suggested someone such as Teng Boon

Ma, chairman of Thai Boon Rong company, might be one who could afford the

probable $2 million price tag.

Pichai told the Post that he will decide

to have a Cambodian shareholder only if no one wanted to buy it

outright.

Khieu Kanharith, the secretary of state for the Information

Ministry, said that the government would like to have Cambodian partners working

in TV and radio stations.

He said IBC had only invested about $1 million

in the station "so it is not suitable to have a long [30-year]

contract".

However, Pichai said the investment by owners Shinawatra Group

was nearer $2.8 million.

IBC's contract has actually dropped from 99

years under the State of Cambodia regime, to 30 years under an SNC

ruling.

Kanharith, who signed the SNC contract relating to IBC when he

was formerly the Minister of Information, said that the former government wanted

to have many foreign investors because they lacked sufficient laws.

"Now,

we look to Cambodia's future. We should have suitable procedures for foreign

investors based on Cambodian law."

Pichai said his station was held in

high esteem among local companies, and had very good cooperation with the

government.

"We have been operating according to Cambodian law. We have

every thing in the Khmer language.

"Everything has been censored by

government - even the foreign movies, such as American, Chinese or Thai

movies."

The company had 100 Cambodian employees and had been airing

international and local news, sports, entertainment and educational programs for

11 hours a day, since 1993.

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