Sat-TV a threat, says Burmese

Burma’s military junta says it believes information technology, particularly satellite TV, “is a decadent threat that undermines nationalism and has warned the people to avoid satellite TV programmes.

BBC Monitoring, quoting the local Irrawaddy website, reports that on Tuesday, the junta-controlled newspapers in Myanmah/Burma, The New Light of Myanmar, Myanma Alin and The Mirror, published a commentary blasting satellite TV.

"In reality, satellite [TV] programmes are particularly designed to wield influence, making use of media and arts," the newspapers said. "Today, certain countries are brazenly interfering in the internal affairs of their targeted countries by inciting political problems, instigating mass demonstrations, and demoralizing the characters [sic] and undermining the nationalistic sense of the people through decadent programmes."
The article was titled "We should not continue to allow decadent satellite programmes," in the English-language daily The New Light of Myanmar, and "Don't Continuously Water a Poison Plant!" in the Burmese-language newspapers, Myanma Alin and The Mirror.

The article said that watching satellite TV in Burma "should have been remedied" because "many of those channels [on satellite TV] can demoralize the people, hurt national spirit and patriotic spirit [sic], and arouse emotional feelings."

TV programmes received through a satellite receiver include news stories that "are against the government policy as well as the sense that may hurt national culture, customs, traditions and character of the people," the article claimed.

If the government disregards and ignores the problem, the nation and the people will face evil consequences, the article said, claiming that the Chinese government prohibits Chinese citizens from watching satellite TV programmes and many countries prohibit and control such broadcasts to protect their national interests.

Soon after the crackdowns on mass demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September 2007, the junta attempted to control citizens' watching satellite TV, in particular the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) as well as the international channels for Al Jazzera, CNN and BBC. In early 2008, the junta ordered a massive hike in the annual satellite TV license fee. At the time, the license fee was increased 166-fold.

As alternatives to the Burmese government's propaganda TV channels, MRTV and Myawaddy, many people in urban and rural areas watch DVB which broadcasts in the Burmese language and provides Burma related news, according to viewer surveys. DVB, run by Burmese exiles, is a "multimedia organization promoting press freedom, democracy and human rights," according to

In recent years, Burmese authorities have tried to counter satellite TV, particularly DVB, by permitting the pay TV, government-controlled channels MRTV 4 and MRTV 5. Both channels are managed by the Ministry of Information. Audiences can access international news broadcasts, music and movie channels. News from international broadcasts is censored.

Most teashops in urban areas have satellite TV receivers and people who cannot afford to buy a receiver watch satellite TV programmes at teashops. Journalists in Rangoon say teashops with satellite TV get more customers. To reach a larger audience via satellite TV, the Washington-based Voice of America (VOA) Burmese Service reportedly has plans to expand its programmes from radio broadcasts to satellite TV in the Burmese language.