Ownership Concentration Puts Media Pluralism at Risk: Study

2 December 2015 / By Khmer Times/Chea Takihiro

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), an international journalism watchdog group, released a report on the ownership of media in Cambodia, highlighting the alarming amount of outlets owned or controlled by the government.

The group conducted a study on Cambodia for its ‘Media Ownership Monitor’ project, which they say is an “effort to promote transparency and media pluralism at an international level.”

“Mass Media shapes public opinion. Therefore, media pluralism and independence is indispensible for any healthy democratic system. This must include the possibility of criticizing people in power in order to hold them accountable,” said Christian Mihr, executive director of the German section of Reporters Without Borders.

The study’s main finding was that the most popular avenue for news intake in Cambodia is television, and discovered that 78 percent of the viewership is concentrated between four different TV news outlets. It also found that an increasing number of Cambodians are getting their news online.

“Seven out of 10 relevant TV channels belong to owners affiliated to the ruling party… [which] means that they are either on the government payroll or appointed as advisors,” the report stated.

The study found that the Cambodia Broadcasting Service (CBS) Corporation accounts for 47 percent of the TV sector and has “potentially [the] highest leverage on public opinion in Cambodia.”

“Such a high degree of media concentration as well as political and economic affiliations as we found here in Cambodia puts media pluralism in jeopardy. Furthermore it discourages critical reporting,” Mr. Mihr said.

Ouk Kimseng, deputy secretary of the state at the Ministry of Information, said they will cooperate with Reporters Without Borders and the Cambodia Center for Independent Media (CCIM) to update and improve the country’s information sector.

Pa Ngounteang, executive director of CCIM, said all of the country’s media outlets should work to provide their audiences with a wider variety of news and be more responsible in how they cover complex issues, especially those that represent actions or failings of the government.

“Transparency and accountability are inseparable. Transparency of ownership structures not only provides the basis for a more reliable journalism in the newsroom itself but also for its credibility,” he said.

RSF struggled to acquire information, saying there is an overall lack of corporate financial data on media companies and most outlets outright refused or were very reluctant to respond to any questions about ownership and reporting practices. The study was conducted with CCIM from September 28th to November 30th

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