Election Committee Rebuts Opposition Over Airtime Dispute

Private television stations are failing to follow National Election Committee (NEC) advertising guidelines, making it difficult for the opposition to buy airtime for its campaign ads, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said yesterday.

—Commune Election 2017—

He complained that the party was ready to buy television airtime, but did not yet have the stations’ schedules, despite the NEC asking stations to publicize their available slots. He acknowledged, however, that the party was waiting for that information, and had not yet approached private stations.

Left: A still image of CNRP President Kem Sokha giving a speech, from a campaign video posted to Mr. Sokha’s Facebook page. Right: A still image of Prime Minister Hun Sen cutting a ribbon, from a campaign video posted to the CPP’s website.

“Nobody sells to us,” Mr. Sovann said yesterday.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan countered that while the ruling party had not yet spoken with private TV stations, it would do so directly if it wanted to purchase airtime.

“We have to go look for them, rather than let them look for us,” Mr. Eysan said.

Each of the 12 political parties on the June 4 commune election ballot are entitled to broadcast two seven-and-a-half minute advertisements daily on state-run TV and radio stations, according to NEC spokesman Hang Puthea. But ads on private TV stations must be purchased, he said.

Mr. Puthea confirmed yesterday that the NEC had sent a letter to private stations urging them to publicize their broadcast times, but said the election body had no further authority.

“The NEC doesn’t have any plans to ask again, because this is their right and private business,” Mr. Puthea said.

The opposition has long complained about unfair treatment on television, but this year’s election comes as social media offers an increasingly effective alternative for spreading political messages.

A study released in December found that the internet, and primarily Facebook, had for the first time surpassed television as the primary source of news for Cambodians.

The opposition’s Facebook page has posted at least 15 videos since the campaign period began on Saturday. Most are under two minutes and feature clips of speeches by CNRP President Kem Sokha, scenes from rallies or interviews with candidates.

CNRP President Kem Sokha’s Facebook page posted two of the party’s TV spots on Saturday, which feature the party president speaking broadly about the opposition’s policies to improve services and safety in communes.

The CPP’s website also has two TV spots online, both featuring a man’s voice urging voters to vote for the CPP for security, peace and development as images of Prime Minister Hun Sen are interspersed with footage of wide roads, canals and bridges. The majority of their videos are shorter than five minutes.

sony@cambodiadaily.com , obyrne@cambodiadaily.com 

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