Friday, January 28, 2011

DVB plans to cut radio programmes, expand TV

Friday, 28 January 2011 20:20 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), which suffered funding cut recently, says it will eliminate some morning radio programmes.

At the same time, as the sole exile TV broadcaster, DVB is making preparations to expand its TV programmes.

Mizzima reporter Tun Tun interviewed DVB Executive Director Aye Chan Naing on the funding cuts, trends in the exiled Burmese media, stopping the short wave radio programmes and the implications and changes in the policies of organizations that fund DVB and other exiled media.

Q: What is the percentage of the funding cuts and what is the amount?

A: It’s about 15 percent and the amount is approximate US$ 500,000.

Q: Because of the funding cuts what programmes in your regular operations will be affected?

A: We have to cut our airtime in radio programmes and some entertainment programmes. We have to reduce some of our office operations, too.

Q: What will be the impact of the reductions in your operations?

A: I think the main impact will be on our radio programmes. The impact will be severe in this area. But on the other hand, we will balance program cuts with overhead costs cut at our Oslo office to minimise the impact on our listeners and audiences in Burma.
For instance, if we can significantly reduce operational costs in the Oslo office, there will be no impact on our programmes.

Q: What is likely to be the impact on the audiences inside Burma due to some programme cuts?

A: I think there will be little impact on our audiences. In radio programmes, we will stop our broadcasting of the morning programme. There will be some impact on short wave radio programmes. But at the same time, we will expand our TV programmes. Currently, we telecast our programmes two to three times daily. We will now extend this airtime considerably, especially for news programmes.

We have airtime for round the clock TV telecasts, so we will expand TV programmes in many areas. The TV audiences inside Burma will be more informed about what is going on in Burma.

Q: What are the reasons for the funding cuts?

A: Actually, it’s not a funding cut. The donors, for their own reasons, may simply not make a contribution for some years. In the long term, we could face similar loss of funds by other existing donors. So we have to consider our long term plan in facing such a financial crisis.

This is not a budget cut to DVB because of unsatisfactory performance and operations. The lack of funding is due to their own problems and policies.

Q: The BBC Burmese Service had similar funding cuts. Some online exiled media had to stop their magazines and journals in the English language. Do you see any structural changes in the exiled media under the reduced funding situation?

A: I think there is one point that all of our exiled media should consider seriously. Our donors are not giving funds to us as media organisations. Their funding philosophy and objective of giving funds to us is concerned with politics. They are providing these funds to us because there is no media freedom in Burma and because of the unfavourable political landscape for a free press. If they change their political policy, certainly it will have an impact.

So there is a danger for us, challenges that are immense, because we must commit to our schedule and programmes in advance. We cannot stop our programmes. So we must have long term plans. If we cannot build sound and reliable funding, the danger will be very serious to us and to all exiled media, for Mizzima or the Irrawaddy or DVB. All of us.

One more thing. What is even worse is the lack of media freedom inside Burma. There are human rights violations inside Burma. The statements made on Friday by the delegates sent by SPDC (junta) to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) are blatant lies. Only the exiled media can expose such lies made in the international arena.

The domestic media cannot do so. So under this circumstance, the role of exiled media is very important for the people of Burma, foreign governments, NGOs and people in foreign countries. They need to know what is really going on in Burma by relying on the exiled media. If the exiled media cannot survive, it will be dangerous for everyone.

Q: Some observers are saying that the donors’ priority is to channel their funds into Burma?

A: Some of the rumours are true. Some are real. But I see also that some of our donors, from Europe and the US, already have operations inside Burma. At the same time, they have a commitment to continue their funding to the exiled organisations too.

But on the other hand, we should ask what are they thinking, why have they stopped funding some of us? We should consider the overall view because all of these donors have supported and funded the Burmese pro-democracy movement for 20 years. Now their ideology, their thoughts, and their tactics are changing.

So all of us need to consider why they have changed. In our view, the changes inside Burma are not real change, only cosmetic changes. They conducted a general election, we have a Constitution now and a new civilian government will emerge soon. If they [donors] really believe in all these cosmetic changes, it must be because of our failure to convince them these are just superficial changes.

Q: What will DVB do if you have more cuts?

A: We have started our own contingency plans. We must consider how we can continue our funding and generate income from our current operations. We have full faith on our existing donor organisations. They also believe and recognise our important role. So we don’t have to worry about our funding for the next four to six years because the role of the exiled media will be important as long as there is no change inside Burma and there is no media freedom in Burma.

If the SPDC really changes by giving media freedom and everybody can say whatever they wish; we don’t need to stay as an exile organization, we don’t need to work here anymore. We will re-enter our country. So I see all of these changes also to be dependent on the Burmese government.

If they still gag the media, if they ban media freedom and freedom of expression in Burma, our role will be important. So the democracy-loving governments and Western countries will continue their support to us and funding to us. I have no doubt of it. But we must prepare ourselves to cope with the changes. Some Western governments might have changed their tactics, but they are not naïve enough to believe all of what the SPDC is trying to tell them.

Another point I’d like to make about the policy changes being made by these Western governments. They can change their policy, but there are people, social communities and NGOs in their countries too. They listen to and care about what these communities are saying. They cannot alone change their policies.

Q: The people from Burma have concerns about DVB reducing its services. What would you like to say to them?

A: We are extremely sorry for cutting our airtime in radio programmes but on the other hand, we will try to maintain our present work standards. Another good point in the changes is the expansion of TV programmes by airing more programmes and more airtime in telecasting news in almost real time. Unfortunately, for listeners of our short wave radio programmes, which are accessible in all nooks and corners of the country, this programing will be cut. TV programmes do have a limitation. But we will try to telecast real time programmes daily, maybe for the first time in our country.

Leave a Reply