Steep rise in satellite TV fees

Jan 3, 2008 (DVB), The cost of renewing an annual satellite television licence has risen sharply from 6000 to 1 million kyat, while new users will face a 2 million kyat charge, according to sources in Rangoon.

Local residents were angered by the price rise, which will make satellite television unaffordable for most Burmese people.

A resident of Mingalar Taung Nyunt township near downtown Rangoon said that many people would no longer be able to access satellite television.

"One million kyat is beyond our means, so we might as well take our satellite dishes down," he said.

One Rangoon resident who had heard rumours of the price hike went to his township Post and Telecommunications Ministry office, where officials confirmed the report.

The resident told the officials he would take down his satellite dish, but was informed that he would have to first submit an application to have it taken down.

People with an existing satellite license will face a fine of 30,000 kyat if they do not renew their licences within a month of expiry.

The cost of a satellite dish alone can be as much as 400,000 kyat, which is already too expensive for many people, but now the 2 million kyat fee for a licence for new users has raised the cost even further.

The licensing system for satellite television was introduced by the former minister of post and telecommunications, U Soe Tha, in 2000.

Since brigadier-general Thein Zaw has taken up the post, he has restricted the issuing of licences for new users.

Some houses in Mingalar Taung Nyunt and Tanwe townships whose inhabitants had recently bought satellites were searched last month by local ward PDC and Rangoon municipal officials.

Outside Rangoon, satellite television licences have also been restricted.

A resident of Bago said that satellite users in small towns were not allowed to purchase licences at all, while in district level towns the 1 million kyat fee was imposed.

Given the strict control the Burmese regime exercises over the domestic media, many people rely on foreign news services for independent reporting.

Some residents of Rangoon have said they believe the restrictions are a reaction to the events of September 2007, when foreign media carried extensive footage of the junta's brutal crackdown on monks and civilian protestors.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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