Equity News, a televised news program aired on state-run TVK and backed by the UN Development Program, announced Monday that political parties would get coverage based on an “equity” concept.
The move was designed to “ensure fair and balanced campaign coverage,” according to a news release, but it drew criticism from new and small parties.
The airtime allocation is based on how many provinces a party is fielding candidates in, as well as a party’s performance in the 2003 and 2007 elections. For example, CPP will get 20 percent, SRP will get 13 percent and the rest get diminishing time allotments from there.
“The percentage of airtime, set by UNDP and TVK, have been endorsed by the [National Election Committee],” the news release said.
Ban Sophal, president of the Society of Justice Party, said he would file a complaint about the disbursement, just as he recently did against the National Democratic Institute’s planned debate series, which had some parties being invited to as few as one or two of 31 debates.
Norodom Ranariddh Party spokesman Muth Channtha said the Equity News formula is unfair because it focuses on the past, not the future.
SRP lawmaker Kuy Bunroeun said the problem with Equity News is that TVK reporters are biased, “so I suggest the allocated time be given to parties to air their own spots.”
The NEC is in the process of deciding whether to give the go-ahead to an NDI political party debate series, but NEC Secretary-General Tep Nytha said last week that because some of the debates will be televised, all parties must have equal access.
Tep Nytha said Monday, however, that Equity News was different from the NDI debates. A debate, he said, gives a party a platform to broadcast its message using their own agendas. Equity News, on the other hand, is a news program in which TVK reporters act as gatekeepers, he said.
“This is a media program” and not “access of a political party to the media,” he said.