New Televison Service Attracts Viewers—and Controversy

More than 1,000 subscribers have already signed up to the nation’s first direct-to-television satellite programmer Techo-DTV, which launched in Feb­ruary and is named in honor of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The service provider, which currently provides access to five local television channels free of charge, is a joint venture between Cam­bodia’s state-owned television network TVK and Cambodian DTV Network Ltd, a subsidiary of the Bangkok-based Shin Satellite Plc.

The first satellite operator in Thailand, Shin Satellite is itself a subsidiary of Shin Corporation, the telecommunications giant founded by ousted former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

And Techo-DTV’s name is in honor of Hun Sen, “Techo” being part of the lengthy title bestowed upon the premier by King Noro­dom Sihamoni in October.

“We want to honor Samdech for reconciling the country and giving benefits to Cambodians,” TVK Director Kem Gunawadh said of the Techo name.

“This is a symbol of national re­conciliation. History has recognized Samdech Hun Sen,” he said.

The five channels aired by Techo-DTV—TV3, TV5, TV9, Bay­on and Apsara—have all signed off to freely allow the new satellite network to broadcast their programs, Kem Gunawadh said.

CTN, however, won’t give programming without first negotiating advertising revenues, Kem Guna­wadh said, although TVK is continuing to seek the network’s programming free of charge.

“CTN has talked about business while we have talked about volunteering,” Kem Gunawadh added.

With reference to negotiations with Techo, CTN General Mana­ger Glen Felgate on Wednesday said, “We are talking with them.”

On the user end, connecting to Techo requires a one-time $20 installation fee for a $75 satellite dish and small box unit that sits atop one’s television. The dish receives a signal from a satellite owned by Shin Satellite.

Other countries will soon be able to receive the signal as well, Kem Gunawadh said.

Of 10,000 satellite units released to the market and another 1,000 units given to TVK, at least 1,000 are already installed, said Cam­bodian DTV Network Project Manager Banpot Deekhum.

The programming is free during Techo’s promotional period, Deekhum said, though the company will eventually switch to pay-per-view programming in the future. However, it has not yet decided when it will make the transition to a pay service, he said.

Despite being a satellite TV programmer, Techo will not be a platform to get hundreds of channels, as the system can currently provide up to just 16 channels of programming, Deekhum said. The plan is for all channels to be Khmer-language only, he said.

Deekhum added that as the programming is currently free to users and takes advantage of old technology donated by Shin Satellite, TVK and Cambodian DTV Network Ltd have yet to reach an agreement on percentage of ownership or how to divide revenue.

The name of the programmer has proved to be somewhat controversial, with the SRP saying that it is inappropriate for a company partially owned and operated by state television to name itself after the prime minister’s title.

It gives the appearance that the state-owned programmer is the personal outlet of the prime minister, Sam Rainsy said of Techo.

“This is another tool to help the ruling party,” he added.

Kem Gunawadh of TVK said that the name for the platform was suggested by the Informa­tion Ministry.

“This is not a pro-government program,” he added. “This is a commercial company.”

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday that the name was indeed a reference to Hun Sen, but was in no way meant as a political gesture.

The word “techo” is Sanskrit for “reconciliation,” Khieu Kan­harith said.

“Hun Sen has brought together the country, and since DTV is bringing together all TV channels it is symbolic of what Hun Sen did,” he said, insisting, “It is a symbol and has nothing to do with politics.”

(Additional reporting by Stephen Kurczy)

 

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