Cambodian broadcasters should allocate free air time to campaigns aimed at raising awareness of HIV/AIDS issues, participants were told Friday at the launch of a six-week media campaign. But TV station officials said they could offer reduced rates, but not free air time, for the messages.
The six-week media campaign, organized by the British NGO Health Unlimited and the National AIDS Authority, will feature radio and TV spots which focus on using condoms, discouraging sex among young people, getting blood tests and showing compassion for sufferers, said Health Unlimited’s Alma Rivera, project manager for the organization‘s Cambodia Health Education Media Service.
Ten professionally-produced karaoke songs recorded on cassette tape, will be distributed, along with T-shirts and caps promoting the same messages, Rivera said. While most of the country’s radio stations are already signed up for the media campaign, the country’s television stations have been more difficult to deal with, according to Rivera.
Although offering a lower rate for such public service advertising, the costs are still high, and specific agreements regarding the broadcasting of the TV spots have been difficult to pin down, Rivera said. “Each station has their own policy. Some advertisers do not like [AIDS] campaigns near their product,” Alma said.
Mao Ayuth, director general of TVK, said Friday his station has never opposed AIDS advertising, but cannot make it a high priority. He said most days the station has a time spot available for HIV/ AIDS information at a reduced rate, but the station cannot guarantee in advance if the spot will be open or at what time. TV5’s marketing chief Heng Sophea said Friday the station is a business, and all advertising must be paid for, although public health information is charged a lower rate.
But the reduced rate means that time slots and lengths of information spots may not be as desirable as organizations want. If NGOs want prime time slots for their message, they should factor the cost into their budgets, Heng Sophea said.
Hernando Agudelo, United Nations Population Fund deputy representative in Cambodia, said that media campaigns are central to helping Cambodia’s HIV/AIDS sufferers. “People must not only be aware of the epidemic, but also where they can find information and services,” said Agudelo, adding that the high costs of media advertising are too expensive for organizations working in the HIV/AIDS field.
Dr Ly Po, vice chairman of the National AIDS Authority, welcomed the launch of the campaign a week before the annual Water Festival and its influx of rural residents to Phnom Penh.
National Aids Authority officials announced this week they plan to distribute 53,000 free condoms during the three-day event.