Voice of America signs "breakthrough" TV deal in Burma
Voice of America issued a press release about Burma yesterday. It's a breakthrough for VOA. We''ll only know if audiences agree when the audience research data is in. Do they find all this material relevant? And I note we're back to calling the capital Rangoon, rather than Yangon.
Rangoon, Burma: Audiences in Burma will soon have a new way to watch Voice of America television programmes following a breakthrough agreement between the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the US government agency responsible for VOA, and Sky Net, a regional direct-to-home satellite provider. The deal was signed Thursday [6 December] in Rangoon by Voice of America director David Ensor and Daw Myint Myint Win, managing director of Shwe Than Lwin Media Co Ltd, which operates Sky Net.
Burmese government officials and Victor Ashe, a member of the BBG's governing board, attended the event. US ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell called it "a point of progress in the development of a rich media culture".
Under the terms of the agreement, Sky Net will carry BBG content, starting with a new VOA Asia TV channel that will provide Burmese-language news, as well as English-language education, information and entertainment programmes.
The line-up includes popular VOA music programmes, as well as science shows and the English language news magazine programme "On Assignment", which showcases VOA reporting from around the world and lets front-line journalists share their experiences from the field.
VOA director Ensor thanked the government of Burma, BBG officials and the Sky Net management team for helping to arrange what he called an "historic event." Ensor said he was "excited about the potential for expanding VOA's audience," and hoped viewers and listeners would communicate to VOA reporters, anchors and producers what they would like to see and hear.
Ashe had travelled to Burma with fellow Board members Susan McCue and Michael Meehan and Radio Free Asia President Libby Liu, along with a team of online technical experts to help Burma's fledgling internet and mobile expansion efforts, as the country expands the scope of its international economic relationships.
"The leadership of BBG, RFA and VOA are committed to helping the people of Burma open up a free media during this historic time of democratic transition," the BBG delegation said in a statement. "On the heels of last month's historic visit by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, BBG board members and staff have been on the ground in discussions with the government officials, democracy leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi, media companies and citizens looking to expand the free flow of information within Burma. Today's signing is another step to reach even more of the Burmese people through satellite television."
VOA broadcasts 25 hours of radio and three hours of TV per week into Burma, while RFA provides 21 hours of radio and 2.5 hours of TV, providing information in seven ethnic languages in addition to Burmese. According to recent research by Gallup, each week US civilian international broadcasters reach 21 per cent of Burmese age 15 and older across all languages, platforms and programmes.
Earlier this year, Voice of America signed an agreement that allows state-run radio and television in Burma to air VOA English teaching programmes.