Cambodian television stations must stop showing sexy karaoke videos or face suspension, the Ministry of Information said Monday.
“In some karaoke songs,” said Khieu Kanharith, secretary of state for Information, “they show clothes that are very suggestive and that’s why I ask them not to air this.”
A statement issued by the ministry Wednesday said the skirts of performers were “too short” and this is “not suitable, as they are Cambodian women.” The warning does not apply to sexy videos featuring non-Cambodian women.
Although the original statement complained about short skirts and midriff-baring tops, Khieu Kanharith said he will not actually look at clothing length. Women can wear what they want, “but not in a very suggestive way,” he said.
The warning was issued to TV stations Wednesday because the ministry had received complaints from viewers, he said.
“In karaoke songs,” he said, “they make it very suggestive and this is very harmful for children, for the underage viewer, and that is why many parents complain.”
The videos, which have a wide audience, will be judged on a case-by-case basis primarily in response to viewer complaints. The first time a video is regarded as too sexy, the station will be warned. The second time, the station may be suspended for two days to a week.
The statement also complained of videos with badly misspelled lyrics. “The Ministry of Information would like to ask you to choose the song that contains suitable performers, of both action and clothes, and with correct spelling,” the statement said.
Khieu Kanharith warned that poor spelling of Khmer script in the videos could damage Cambodians’ literacy. He said that bad spelling itself would not get a TV station suspended, but a station might get an advisory phone call not to do it again.
He added that the problem is not with TVK, the government-owned station. He cited TV3 and Bayon, both privately owned, as the stations that generates the most complaints to the ministry.
However, both stations insisted that they complied with Ministry of Information instructions and do not show karaoke videos that are too sexy.
“We respect all the time orders from the Ministry of Information about short dresses and suggestive dancing,” said Ouch Ottakan, vice chairman of TV3. “But we have a disco program every Sunday. Sometimes they wear the short dress when the singer sings a sexy song.” TV3 allows the singer to decide what to wear, he added.
Khieu Kanharith said that the warning did not apply to live performances, only to karaoke videos.
He said the order is not a free speech issue, pointing out that there are plenty of other sexy shows on TV.
“In our press law, and also in the contract with TV stations, they must respect the tradition of Cambodia,” Khieu Kanharith said. “In Cambodia, we don’t restrict any free flow of information through the Internet. You can import any newspaper and magazine. I think that is more than enough. You can see many sexy films from Hong Kong or the West, from Hollywood, on TV. No problem. [This applies to] just Cambodian movies only.”
The warning does not apply to videos shown in karaoke bars either, but bar managers denied that Cambodian women in the videos wear short skirts.
Kau Sampo, the manager at Modern Sound Karaoke, 22-C
St 154 in Phnom Penh, said that all Cambodian women in the videos wear long skirts. “Some Cambodian [customers] like short skirts, but then they can watch the Chinese and Vietnamese videos. They wear the short skirts.”