The Cambodian People’s Party dished out an estimated $576,000 for airtime on private TV stations for live coverage of its final commune election campaign rally today, a figure based on a rate quoted by Prime Minister Hun Sen and confirmed by three of the stations.
The CPP drew thousands of supporters of to its campaign event this morning, which started about 7am, and included an hour-long speech by the premier and a procession through the streets of Phnom Penh, the main component of which finished around 11am.
However, the rally reached a potential audience of millions more on television, with the premier revealing during the rally that the CPP had paid eight TV stations $300 per minute to broadcast the spectacle.
“I would like to inform the NEC that we hired airtime from eight stations,” the premier said.
“These stations can also rent airtime to other parties if they can afford it.”
Four hours of coverage on eight stations at this price, which was confirmed by three of the stations, amounts to $576,000.
The revelation was yet another reminder of the CPP’s vast resource advantage over their competition, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which has complained its attempts to launch its own TV station in recent years were been thwarted by the CPP-controlled bureaucracy.
Among the stations that broadcast the rally was Hang Meas TV. A high-profile personality on the station, Meas Rithy, said the CPP had booked out the 6am to 7pm slot.
However, Rithy said the station was only required to broadcast the feed from Bayon TV, which is controlled by Hun Sen’s daughter, Hun Mana, when there were live events to cover.
This morning, he said, this included relaying the rally from after 6am to when it ended about 11am.
The price rate was also confirmed by Moun Ramady, general manager of CNC TV, which is part of the Royal Group-owned Cambodia Broadcasting Service, which also runs CTN, MyTV, CTN International and cable channel One TV.
“What we did was give a lump sum rate; it’s a normal rate,” Ramady said.
“At CTN the rate is higher than CNC, so we given them a lump sum rate for each channel.”
Under the National Election Committee’s guidelines, each of the 12 registered parties competing in the commune election were given equal airtime on government-run broadcaster TVK.
The guidelines also allow for parties to purchase additional spots on privately owned TV and radio stations.
However, speaking about the guidelines in March, the Cambodian Institute for Media Studies’ Moeun Chhean Nariddh was quick to point out the unlikelihood of such sales, given the pro-government leanings of most station ownership.
“Most of the television and radio [stations] . . . seem to favour and have a tendency toward the ruling party, and . . . they do not dare broadcast other political parties’ policies,” he said.