Amid Bribery Rumors, CNN Links Up With SkyNet

By Tin Htet Paing 7 May 2016

RANGOON — US cable television giant CNN teamed up Friday with the crony-owned telecommunications company SkyNet, less than a month after the Burmese firm was implicated in a government bribery scandal.

SkyNet is part of Shwe Than Lwin Media Co. and is chaired by Kyaw Win, who is believed to have close ties with Burma’s previous quasi-civilian government and the military regime that preceded it.

The exclusive partnership involves a news affiliate and consultation agreement between the local TV provider and CNN International of Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific. As part of the agreement, CNN will help SkyNet launch a 24-hour Burmese-language news network called Channel One, according to an official statement released by SkyNet at the signing ceremony.

CNN will provide consulting, capacity building for the employees and training for news production and technical operations, the statement said.

Myint Myint Win, president of Shwe Than Lwin Media, said the partnership marked a “milestone” for SkyNet.

“By collaborating with CNN, a first-class product encompassing the best of local and international news will be delivered to the Myanmar people through Channel One,” she said.

Chairman Kyaw Win of Shwe Than Lwin said, “There is absolutely no better [news outlet] to learn from.”

Greg Beitchman, vice president of CNN International’s commercial content sales and partnerships, said CNN is “confident” in SkyNet’s ability to achieve the same journalism standards as CNN and will ensure the new TV channel offers the highest quality news content in Burma.

“Developing a channel will help the country tremendously,” he said. “We think that sharing our standards of journalism and values here in Myanmar will contribute to a model of a political debate which will benefit the country’s politics and also the country’s economics.”

Ko Ko, chief executive officer of Shwe Than Lwin Media, told The Irrawaddy that the new TV channel was not a business investment but would be “powered” by CNN in order to meet the US media conglomerate’s standards of journalism. He was unable to confirm the launch date of Channel One.

“It will only be launched when CNN thinks it’s ready,” he said. “We have to start everything from scratch. We don’t know when all the training will finish.”

Although the statement mentioned that the agreement between CNN and SkyNet was a multi-year deal, Ko Ko said that it would be renewed annually.

SkyNet, a private TV operator, was implicated in a scandal involving a bribe of 5 million kyats (US$4,250) to the personal assistant of an unnamed official in the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government during Burma’s New Year’s Water Festival.

Although a statement released by the President’s Office last month didn’t explicitly name the company involved, it reported that the alleged offender was “a media company that took part in the annual New Year in Naypyidaw by staging a pavilion.”

SkyNet was the sole media company to host a pavilion in Naypyidaw during the 2016 New Year celebrations.

While the amount of the bribe was relatively small, the case has been viewed as one of symbolic value, with the NLD government pledging to crack down on rampant corruption in Burma.

The money, after the bribe was revealed, was put toward public works projects.