Burmese Tune in to First Internet Radio Station
By Naomi Gingold 5 October 2013
RANGOON — The newest member of Burma’s broadcasting family, 7 Online Radio is trying to change the way Burmese tune in to the radio. Started originally in September 2012, the station aims to reach Burmese living abroad, as well as citizens at home.
The 6 friends who invested to start the station decided to forego the FM dial because of the high investment cost and the lengthy permit process. And Internet radio appealed to them, Director Min Chit Thu said, because anyone could listen for free from anywhere in the world.
Unusually for a media outlet in Burma, 7 Online Radio has no official government media license to operate. Min Chit Thu, said the station just started broadcasting without a permit. Now, because it doesn’t broadcast news, the station has even received an official “No Problem” from the Minister of Information.
7 Online Radio does face an uphill battle, though. The Internet in Burma has broken several times over the past few months and connection speeds are often slow. But as the station keeps its servers in Thailand and broadcasts from Thailand, Burma’s well-documented Internet connectivity issues have not impacted the station’s stream very much. According to Min Chit Thu, on occasion, the station’s staff have merely been prevented from uploading new programs, which are produced in Rangoon.
In a country where only about 1 percent of the population, or about 600,000 people have Internet access, one might think that the audience for online radio is small. After a year, according to Min Chit Thu, 7 Online currently has about 10,000 domestic- and foreign-based listeners, with their strongest listening bases in Burma, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Listeners tuning in, using their computer or mobile device, will catch Burmese music, new and old, along with music news and local celebrity gossip. The station offers a 24-hour program stream with six hours of new programming a day.
The station is currently looking for more investors, as well as to add advertising to its stream. Although the station is yet to start making money, Director Min Chit Thu remains optimistic. Laughing, he told the Irrawaddy, “We have not given up until today.”