CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Monday that a group of people close to the opposition party has applied to register a firm with the government that will operate the television license promised to the CNRP by Prime Minister Hun Sen during the political deadlock.
Mr. Hun Sen on June 10 pledged that the CNRP, whose 55 lawmakers were boycotting the National Assembly at the time, would be allowed a TV station if CNRP President Sam Rainsy registered a private company and then applied for a license.
Each of the country’s nine terrestrial TV stations are presently either owned or aligned with the ruling CPP, and the CNRP’s demand for a station of its own was one of its key demands during the yearlong deadlock after the disputed July 2013 election.
Mr. Sovann said that the opposition party earlier this month began the process of registering the company with the government.
“We have gotten together some individuals that are loyal to the party to register a company. It will be called Cambodian Independent Media,” Mr. Sovann explained. The application to register the firm had been sent to the Ministry of Commerce, he said.
“After the private company is registered, the management of the company will send a letter to the prime minister directly to ask for the license to operate the television station.”
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith confirmed that Mr. Hun Sen’s pledge to permit an opposition station was still valid but said that no opposition officials had been in contact with his ministry.
Mr. Sovann said he was unsure when the station would begin broadcasting, and said that the party was expecting news about its registration from the Commerce Ministry in the next two weeks.
Once the company is registered and then licensed by the Information Ministry, Mr. Sovann explained, it will operate semi-autonomously from the party and aim for balanced reporting.
“We will pay for the operations and we will appeal to the investors, those who want to put in the capital. The content of the programs must be professional and not too much politically influenced, with accurate, timely news that reflects reality,” he said.
“It will be the right and power…of the TV management to decide which programs will be broadcasted,” Mr. Sovann continued, adding that entertainment programming would dominate the station.
In November, the CNRP launched an online television station known as “CNRP TV” that aimed to circumvent the near universal blackout of opposition activities on existing television networks during the months of protests after the July 2013 election.
The online television station has had little impact on the CPP’s longstanding grip on television stations.
The stations include Bayon TV —which is owned by Mr. Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana—and CTN, CNC and MyTV, which are owned by businessman Kith Meng, who has had a long and close relationship with Mr. Hun Sen. TVK, the public broadcaster, is run by the Information Ministry and directed by CPP stalwart Kem Gunawadh.
CNRP public affairs director Mu Sochua, who has worked closely with the CNRP party activists who have run the CNRP’s online television, said the party’s terrestrial station would be more professional and would have less direct control from party officials.
“As members of the [CNRP] permanent committee we will also have a say in the policy, the direction. However, what is important is the independence and neutrality of the media as a whole. We want it to be a source of information that is independent,” she said.
“It’s not just CNRP TV, we want it to uphold the ethics of media as well. Therefore, we will be training staff up to a professional standard and will give a group of people who are interested in the media and reporting on-the-job training,” she said.
Cambodian Center for Independent Media executive director Pa Nguon Teang said he thought it would be difficult for the political news team on the new opposition station to be neutral.
“If it is affiliated with the CNRP, let’s wait and see the contents, but I believe the party will moderate any content that does not benefit the party,” Mr. Nguon Teang said, explaining that he assumed the main purpose of the station would be to promote the CNRP.
“My guess is that this is the aim of the party. If they had no such aim or purpose, they would not need the station. As a second purpose, they may also be interested in independent media,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Hul Reaksmey)