The Myanmar Government has issued new domestic free-to-air (FTA) digital TV programme service licences to five ‘channel providers’ to broadcast digital FTA TV under the umbrella of the state-owned broadcaster Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV).
The Myanmar Government called for expressions of interest for a TV licence in October 2016. Following 42 expressions of interest, 29 formal proposal submissions were received which were shortlisted to 10 companies in February 2017. Government awarded five companies a license in April 2017; namely DVB Multi Media, Fortune International, Kuang Myanmar Aung, Mizzima Media, and Young Investment Group.
Myanmar’s TV sector is rapidly expanding as the country moves toward a more liberalised economy. The new licences will increase programme choice and diversity for Myanmar viewers, create more employment opportunities for Myanmar’s creative industries and bring additional investments into local programme production. Licences will also further development of the broadcasting industry in Myanmar, which for decades was under the tight grip of Government regulation.
The Government’s Ministry of Information classifies the five selected companies as ‘content providers’ rather than ‘broadcasters’. This is to avoid complications with the Broadcasting Law enacted by Myanmar’s previous Government in August 2015. Under the existing legislation, broadcast licences can only be issued by a Broadcast Media Council, which has not been established during the period stipulated by the Law, thus forcing the Ministry to consider amendments to the Broadcasting Law.
Established in 1979, MRTV is one of four entities that control broadcasting licences in Myanmar, along with Forever Group, Myawaddy TV and Shwe Thanlwin. Formerly Burma Broadcasting Service, MRTV has adopted the European DVB-T2 standard for broadcasting its digital terrestrial television (DTT) services. Myanmar is just one of 22 countries in the Asia-Pacific which has selected the European standards (DVB-T and DVB-T2) for its DTT migration, despite two of the largest economies in the region (China and Japan) opting to develop their own standards: Digital Terrestrial Multimedia Broadcast (DTMB) and Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting – Terrestrial (ISDB-T) respectively.
The new licences will increase MRTV’s channel count to 16, reaching almost 90% of the country’s population. The new licence holders will operate their own channels within MRTV and may use the company’s transmission infrastructure but will not have access to use MRTV’s production facilities. Transmitting equipment will cost around 90 million kyats (US$68,000). The five selected companies will also pay a one-off 8 million kyats (US$6,000) for its licence application, a yearly satellite infrastructure fee of 7.2 million kyats (US$5,400) and an additional monthly broadcasting fee of 20 million kyats (US$15,000). Further costs are likely for building studios, fibre optic cable links and training broadcast journalists and technicians.
Having said this, if the new licence holders can successfully manage their costs, the licence enables these channel providers to tap into the lucrative advertising revenue opportunities offered by Myanmar’s growing broadcasting industry. Industry reports claim advertising on radio and TV account for around 200 billion kyats (US$150 million) or 75% of the country’s total media advertising in 2016.