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Burma to drop ban on satellite TV

Licences for satellite television receivers are likely to be issued again in Burma following a six-year ban claimed at the time by observers to be an attempt to control the flow of information into the country.

The notification came from communications minister Thein Htun after a question about the possibility of reintroducing satellite permits was raised in parliament. The minister said the process would take time, although state media appeared optimistic that it would be successful.

Phone Myint Aung, an MP for the opposition National Democratic Force, quoted the minister as saying that that the law regarding the licences has already been drafted.

The move is part of a reshaping of the communications law, and follows introductions or amendments to a number of laws that signal the government is loosening its vice-like grip on Burmese society.

Most satellite users in the former capital Rangoon are without permits. Locals there welcomed the news as a sign that the media environment is further opening up, following the relaxing of an internet ban on certain news website, including DVB.

The ban in 2005 was not the first such restriction by the government – in 1993 it enacted a ban that wasn’t lifted until 2001, and during those eight years only around 2,000 satellite dishes were legally in use, mostly by hotels and businesses.

Despite the periods of prohibition on satellite licences, exiled media such as DVB has still managed to broadcast into the country. Government ministers are believed to garner much of their information from these independent sources, and thus have been reluctant to block the service.


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