The new social issues television program, Cambodian Voices, could be back on air
"in the next couple of weeks" despite being canceled by TV3 after its first
episode was screened. That is according to Dominic Cardy of the series' funder, the
National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Cardy said he was in discussions with several stations, including TV3, about hosting
the show, but said it was unlikely it would go back to TV3.
"We're considering other options in relation to TV3. [The cancellation] is a
pretty poor comment on contract law in Cambodia," he said.
The panel discussion program, which is designed to give politically neutral coverage
to political and social issues, was the first of its kind to be made here.
The program's producers, FIT Media, were at a loss to explain why TV3, the highest
rating station in Phnom Penh, had spiked the show.
"We would love to hear their explanation," said editor Daniel Littlewood.
"How many times have people at the senior levels of government said they want
more Khmer programs on television?"
TV3 director Kamphan Keomony said it was his decision to stop broadcasting the show,
as his station had already agreed to give that slot to another production house.
"The show was contrary to a contract with Seven Star Productions which allows
only for entertainment programs in that timeslot. The program shows religion and
politics so I ordered it closed down," he said.
But Cardy said NDI's contract with the station was very clear on the content of the
program which had been cleared by the Ministry of Information. He said the station's
management had given only vague verbal reasons for the cancellation and offered nothing
FIT Media had paid $650 for an hour of airtime to screen the one hour panel discussion
program, which was scheduled to screen every second Sunday until June.
Three programs have been shot to date: one each on voter registration, weapons reduction,
and the role of religion in development. Future shows would examine HIV/AIDS and
the plight of street children.
Hom Chhorn, the founder of FIT Media, said the first program on voter registration
had been very well received by the National Election Committee and people in Phnom
"I went into coffee shops on Monday morning and people were talking about it,"
For Chhorn the program was the realization of a long-held dream. He went to Australia
as a refugee in 1981 where he eventually began a career in television. On his return
he despaired at the lack of independent news in the electronic media.
"I was hoping to create a new trend of independent reporting in Cambodian television,"
Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development (CSD), said the actions
of TV3 reflected a long-standing problem. She said that in the past CSD aired its
public forums nationally on radio and television under a contract with TVK.
"But after a couple of years they refused to screen them, and lately none of
the radio or TV stations will air our programs," she said.
Vannath added that subsequent meetings with broadcasters and the Ministry of Information
had not generated any valid reasons for the decisions.
"They just find a nonsense reason to discourage us", she said, adding that
political pressure was a likely explanation. Some station managers, she said, had
admitted as much.