Junta permits new radio stations to air

Aug 5, 2009 (DVB), Three new FM radio stations will soon begin broadcasting across 10 states and divisions in Burma in a joint operative between private companies and the Burmese government.

The stations, named Shwe, Cherry and Padamya, will go on air on 15 August, adding to the four FM stations already in existence in Burma.

This is the first time stations not fully owned by the government will be allowed to broadcast in the country, although the three have been given permission by the ruling junta.

"Now we can say we are stepping into a new era of the broadcasting service," said Maung Thit Min, from the Myanmar Music Association (MMA), a state-formed industry body.

"Before there were only government broadcasting stations but now it is more like a joint cooperation between the government and the private companies," he said.

Shwe FM radio station, which is based in Bago division, will cover the Bago and Tenasserim divisions, and Karen and Mon state.

Cherry FM will cover Shan state and Karenni state, while Padamya FM will broadcast across Magwe and Sagaing divisions, and Kachin state and Chin state.

At present there is no copyright law in Burma and stations can freely use artists' music with no financial gains for the creator.

However, in an initiative set up by Mandalay FM, one of the four existing FM radio stations, fees are being paid individually to artists. The three new radio stations are currently negotiating with the MMA for a similar deal.

"Because the broadcasting is becoming more privatised, they start to give more favour to copyright as well as a profit for [the artists]," said Maung Thit Min.

It is unclear why the government has given permission for the new stations, although the looming 2010 elections might provide a reason for the government to step-up its broadcasts.

Observers have said they expect to see the junta looking for new ways to spread campaign messages in the run-up to the elections.

Only four opposition radio stations, including DVB, broadcast into Burma and are picked up on shortwave radio frequencies.

All media in Burma is strictly controlled by the government’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, and no opposition media legally exists.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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