Forty-Two Companies Vie for Five New MRTV Channels

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 6 October 2016

RANGOON — The Ministry of Information announced on Thursday that 42 companies have been included in the initial content provider list to work under the state-owned Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV).

From among these companies, five will be selected to run their own channels under MRTV, one of four entities granted a broadcasting license by the ministry—others include the Forever Group, Shwe Thanlwin Co., and Myawaddy TV.

MRTV was set up in 1979, and for decades was used to broadcast propaganda by Burma’s former military regime. It currently has 10 channels.

“Five channels will be working under MRTV. There is a third party that will select five companies [from among the 42 on the content provider list]. The whole procedure is expected to finish within the next three months,” U Myo Myint Maung, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Information, told The Irrawaddy.

“We will provide five channels to the private sector. Companies must submit their detailed proposals to the selection committee, and they will choose by the end of this year,” he said.

Of those companies designated as approved content providers eyeing the channel spots, some already have a satellite TV broadcasting service. The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB TV) is one such group—a news organization which long operated in exile from Thailand and Norway.

U Toe Zaw Latt, bureau chief of DVB TV, told The Irrawaddy that they have run a successful satellite broadcasting service for 25 years, but they hope that a digital platform will introduce their coverage to new audiences.

“This channel will go by the digital broadcasting system, so we want to target audiences who are not watching satellite TV,” he said. “We’re a TV news channel—we have experience broadcasting news. I don’t think it is too difficult for us, but for beginners, I agree it is hard to start.”

U Toe Zaw Latt added that the market competition will be stronger in the new platform, and that challenges regarding technology, investment and human resources lay ahead.

“Investment will be big—we should expect an investment of three to five years in order to return the benefits,” he said.

U Nyi Lin Seck, former channel director of the 5 Network, part of the Forever Group, told The Irrawaddy that as far as he knows, most companies want to set up entertainment channels, including shopping networks, which could bring in more money than news channels.

“If they want to make a profit, there should be a variety of channels for the long term—there will be risks ahead,” he said. “In my experience, [channels] can’t run 3-5 years unless they spend at least US$3 million.”

U Nyi Lin Seck added that the government should grant licenses to companies with strong capital, who can commit to long-term investment.

“What we are concerned about is, how in the previous government’s time, one person was granted a license but the real operator is someone else,” he said.

U Ye Htut, former Minister of Information under ex-President Thein Sein’s government, told The Irrawaddy that news content providers will face difficulties as long as they are unable to provide a variety of programs in a digital media age. Facing the greatest challenge will be newcomers to the digital TV scene, he speculated.

“As far as I know, TV remotes are controlled by children and housewives,” he said. “They like entertainment channels and these have high potential. For news channels, it is difficult, as long as they can’t surpass online news,” he said.

U Ye Htut added that content providers must prepare programs for at least eight hours per day—repeated three times—and three hours’ worth of shows must consist of new programming.

“For the initial three months, new programs can attract people. Then beyond three months, they can mix old and new programs. This is what content providers must prepare, starting now,” he said.