March 12 - 18, 2007 Myanmar's first international weekly © Volume 18, No. 358

Broadcasting options expanding

By May Thaw
A City FM staff member rehearses for a new program in Yangon last week. The reach of the popular station extends to most townships in the city. Pic: Hein Latt Aung

AFTER a hard day at work many Myanmar people go home to relax with their families and watch television, with the range of Korean soap operas particularly popular with audiences.

Myanmar is loaded with potential viewing choices – there are three free-to-air channels and two easily accessed satellite channels.

Unfortunately, with so many choices people often argue and fight over what to watch – leading some families to invest in a second television.

“With more programs available on the television channels, Myanmar’s viewers now have more options than before. So the impact of increased competition from satellite providers has had little effect on most people,” said a spokesperson from Myanmar Marketing Research & Development Company (MMRD).

The three free television channels in Myanmar are MRTV, Myawady Television and MRTV-3.

According to MMRD, 70 percent of viewers watch the MRTV and Myawady channels.

The most popular shows in Myanmar are Korean soap operas like “Melody of a River” and a range of reality television programs where people compete to win singing and acting contests.

“I always watch the acting contest on MRTV at 5:30pm and the Korean drama on Myawady television at 7pm but I don’t really have a favourite channel,” said Ma Thandar Hlaing, a final-year English major student at Dagon University.
U Ye Tun, assistant director of MRTV-3, explained the aims of the television stations in Myanmar.

“MRTV, MRTV-3 and MRTV-4 undertake three main duties – to inform, to educate and to entertain the public and broadcast healthy programs,” said U Ye Tun, assistant director of MRTV-3.

MRTV was established in 1981 and was Myanmar’s first channel.
“It has raised public awareness about social responsibility and government policy since 1981,” said one avid watcher, U Htin Aung Thwin.

In addition to Korean dramas, MRTV also broadcasts a number of programs showing Myanmar cultural performances as well as education programs and other entertainment shows.

The role of radio in Myanmar society is also strong and Myanmar radio continues to stream the latest news and entertainment to listeners all over the country.

“It provides Myanmar people with useful information every day. And it educated people for many years before television programs started being broadcast,” said U Khin Maung Aye, a teacher from No(1) Basic Education High School in Hlaing township.

But according to MMRD’s spokesperson, Myanmar’s people are losing interest in the radio as more people switch over to television’s warm fuzzy glow.
Another channel is the military-run Myawady Television, that started in 1995 and provides a twice daily news bulletin; it is also the main provider of Korean soap operas to the waiting public.

“I get the most satisfaction from Myawady because it has extended it’s broadcasting hours by showing more Korean shows and Myanmar movies on Saturday and Sunday afternoons,” said Ma Khin Thazin, a student from No(4) Basic Education High School in Botahtaung township.

MRTV-3 joined the mix in mid 2001 and gives priority to providing national news for a world audience.

“The objective of MRTV-3 is to present a genuine and correct image of Myanmar to its target audience in foreign lands,” said U Ye Tun, assistant director of MRTV-3.

The channel also presents a range of programs on culture, tourism, arts, business and sports.

And then there is MRTV-4, a channel jointly operated by MRTV and the Forever Group. It started broadcasting in 2004 and airs programs between 7am and 11pm.

Unfortunately, MRTV-4 can only be viewed by people with MMBox satellite receivers, which are also equipped with a hard drive to record video.
U Myint Aung, deputy director of MRTV-4, said viewers could access the satellite network through the digital video broadcasting – terrestrial (DVB-T) receiver, which they call the “Family Receiver”.

“We plan to extend this service to other parts of the country and also lengthen the duration of its programs,” he said.

Viewers who use the Family Receiver and pay the annual fee can also watch the MRTV-5 pay-tv channels, including 5 Movies, 5 Sports, 5 Cartoons, 5 Series, CNN and the Discovery Channel, which are jointly-operated by MRTV.
“The audiences for MRTV-3 and MRTV-4 are smaller than the other channels because they don’t have as much airtime. And MRTV-4 can really only be seen in and around Yangon, not elsewhere in the country,” he said.

The Yangon City Development Committee opened another radio station – City FM – in 2002 to cater for young people between the ages of 18 and 24-years-old.

Programs and the music on City FM are constantly being updated to keep the content fresh. The reach of City FM extends to most townships in Yangon and the station is popular with many listeners.

“I like listening to City FM because it has programs like Star on Line, where audiences can chat with their favourite celebrities,” said third-year physics student Ma Zun Pwint.

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