January 8, 2016 - Updated on March 8, 2016

Concentration of Ownership puts Cambodian Media at risk

Reporters Without Borders’ Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) provides transparency in the Cambodian media market and reveals high levels of ownership concentration.
Phnom Penh – December 2nd, 2015 Today in Phnom Penh, the publicly available database has been launched to present all the research findings and to provide continuously updated information to the general public as well as towards civil society advocates and political decision makers. On this occasion, also possible recommendations on media regulation and concentration control were discussed in a public debate. Initiated by the international press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) project is a global research and advocacy effort to promote transparency and media pluralism at an international level. The first country study was published in Colombia earlier in 2015. In Cambodia, the MOM was conducted together with the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) from September 28th to November 30th. Based on a standardized and transparent methodology, MOM assesses the most relevant Cambodian media outlets across all types of media (TV, radio, print, online) based on their respective audience shares. The data related to media consumption was provided by the Cambodian Media Research & Development (CMRD). Key findings show: • The TV sector is the most popular and at the same time the most concentrated media sector: the top 4 media companies (CBS Co. Ltd., HANG MEAS Video Co., MICA MEDIA, Co. Ltd, PPCTV Co. Ltd) gather 78% of the viewership. Moreover, 7 of 10 relevant TV channels belong to owners affiliated to the ruling party. This means that they are either on the government payroll or appointed as advisors. • While the PRINT sector is also highly concentrated with the top 4 outlets reaching 59% of the audience, it is important to keep in mind that only one out of 10 Cambodians reads newspapers or magazines. • The Top 4 RADIO stations cover 43% of the audience in Cambodia, which reveals a medium concentration. It is most fragmented, with 8 of the 10 most relevant radio stations, reaching between 3-6% of the audience. • ONLINE news websites are amongst the most popular websites of the country, although the interest for online news remains still limited. It is also important to highlight that the limited amount of data available related to ISPs and phone operators in the country does not allow to fully show the structure of the Internet distribution. • The Top 4 Media corporations and owners (Royal Group, Hang Meas, Hun Mana & Seng Bunveng) together reach 83.4% of the audience across all media sectors. This proofs an exceptionally high concentration of media companies that have a potential influence on public opinion. • The Cambodian Broadcasting Service (CBS) Corporation, that alone gathers 47% in the TV sector, is by far the most important media group in Cambodia. Owned by The Royal Group and established in 2003, CBS counts at least three media-related sister companies ranging from phone operations to digital TV and Internet Service Providers. This makes its owner, Kith Meng, one of the most influential media owners with the potentially highest leverage on public opinion in Cambodia. “Mass media shape the public opinion. Therefore, media pluralism and independence is indispensable for any healthy democratic system. This must include the possibility of criticizing people in power in order to hold them accountable,” says Christian Mihr, Executive Director of the German section of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on the occasion of his visit to Phnom Penh. “Such a high degree of media concentration as well as political and economical affiliations as we found here in Cambodia puts media pluralism in jeopardy. Furthermore it discourages critical reporting”. He also referred to the annual World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters without Borders where Cambodia ranks only 139th out of 180 countries. The MOM team encountered two main obstacles during the research process: • The lack of corporate financial data related to the media sector made it impossible to evaluate the economic impact and dimension of concentration. • While there was little public information on ownership structures available, proactively contacted media outlets proved very reluctant to respond: only one third provided complete data upon request. Pa Ngounteang, CCIM Executive Director and operating director of the radio station Voice of Democracy, calls on his fellow media professionals: “All media outlets should be accountable to their audience, to ensure plurality of content and to serve the interests of Cambodian people. 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”. The investigation also highlights the following: • Media regulation in Cambodia is in its infancy. The high degree of concentration illustrates the lack of an appropriate legal framework. • The Ministry of Information appears in a critical role being the sole authority to officially allocate and revoke licenses in an opaque process, instead of establishing and entrusting an independent media authority. Christian Mihr concludes: “We encourage the government and legislators to set up an independent body to regulate media concentration and ownership in the country, including a transparent licensing regime as a prerequisite." Media Contacts : Reporters without Borders / MoM project Ulrike Gruska / Christoph Dreyer, media relations officers [email protected] Tel.: +49 30 60 98 95 33-55 Reporters Without Borders / International Headquarters Perrine Daubas, Head of Communication and Development [email protected] Tel.: +33 1 44 83 84 83 Cambodian Center for Independent Media CCIM Pa Ngounteang, CCIM Executive Director [email protected] Tel.: 060 409999