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Cambodia TV Station Forms Unusual Partnership with China

Nice TV Has an Unsual Business Model
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The friendship between China and Cambodia has become so close that a Chinese majority-owned, Khmer Language television station has built studios directly inside the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia TV Station Forms Unusual Partnership with China
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NICE TV is a new television station in Cambodia with an unusual business model.

The company is a majority Chinese-owned television network in Cambodia. The Cambodian Ministry of Interior holds a minority share of ownership in the company. The offices for NICE TV are inside the buildings of the interior ministry.

The goal, officials say, is to make news and programs that connect better with Cambodian audiences.

Jason Liu is Chief Operations Officer of NICE TV. He spoke to VOA about the station and what it broadcasts.

Its news stories include things like preparations for the upcoming water festival, a big event in Cambodia. Producers at NICE TV say usual stories include things like people’s complaints about floods and traffic.

An important part of NICE TV’s efforts to better connect with people is an app the company has developed called Tutu Live. The application permits viewers to be part of TV programs just as people call in to radio programs to take part in a show. Tutu Live lets people be seen as well as heard.

The app is being used to create what is called user-generated content, or programming that is partly created by people who watch the TV shows and also want to appear in them.

Liu told VOA that being linked to the Ministry of Interior makes it possible to use resources that can increase content.

He said, “The ministry has a police network all around Cambodia so we want to create social news and we can use this resource to create the best social news in Cambodia.”

Concerns in a media industry with fewer voices

However, some Cambodians are concerned about the partnership.

The government has shut down media groups that have criticized the ruling Cambodian People’s Party or Prime Minister Hun Sen. These include the opposition newspaper, The Cambodian Daily, and broadcasters such as Radio Free Asia. There are concerns that The Phnom Penh Post also will face closure.

Nop Vy is the acting head of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media. He said the partnership between a foreign company and a ministry responsible for Cambodian state security looked, in his words, “not good.”

He said, “The image of the location in the ministry itself and the work of the private company interferes into the work of the ministry, and [the] Ministry of Interior’s role is very important.”

He added that the partnership could limit what the station could report on. “For example not doing something against China,” he said.

Liu said NICE TV is free to report on whatever its officials choose. However, he notes that the station avoids sensitive political stories or opposition opinions. He said this has more to do with what viewers want to watch than with state restrictions.

“The role of TV is to make people’s living better, it is not to make conflict,” he said.

Huy Vannak is the undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Interior.

He said the content of NICE TV will mainly deal with entertainment. But, he said, the TV station will seek “to inform the people” about how to provide better public services. He said that is the purpose of the TV station.

The ministry has a big job, he said, explaining that the ministry provides security and other public services.

“The ministry is run and has a big task to the people basically at the grass-roots level because we have the police department on the security side and we have the public service on the administration side,” he said.

However, the details of the ministry’s business relationship with NICE TV remain unclear.

Liu admits that it is unusual for a foreign company to hold such a partnership with a government ministry. He said NICE TV is a fully private operation that has seen improvement in relations between Cambodia and China.

I’m Mario Ritter.

David Boyle reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

audience –n. the group of people who listen to, watch or read a media performance or work

app –(application) n. a computer program designed to do a specific task or set of related or connected tasks

content –n. the ideas, facts, or images that are in a book, article, movie, etc.

location –n. a place

role –n. a part that someone or something has in a particular activity

grass-roots –adj. the ordinary people in a society or organization

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