The study explores the potential for establishing a Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) system in Cambodia. Four main factors – political circumstances, economic conditions, civil society and potential donors, and sociocultural compatibility were examined to determine their impact on prospects for a future PSB system. Those four factors were chosen on the basis of previous studies. A second objective of the study was to develop an organizational structure for a future PSB system that would make it independent of political and corporate influences and enable it to serve the best interests of the public. A third objective was to develop a funding scheme for a future PSB system that would make it financially sustainable in the long run.
In order to achieve those three objectives, a qualitative method was used to conduct field research in Cambodia. In-depth interviews were undertaken with 68 individuals, including policy-makers, media executives, media practitioners, civil society activists and representatives of donor organizations well as with ordinary citizens from different regions. The areas sampled were Phnom Penh, the capital; Siem Riem, a provincial town in the northwest of the country; the port of Sihanoukville in the southwest; and Stung Treng, a provincial town in the northeast. Research data were also collected from primary materials, including reports, meeting minutes, newsletters, press releases and pamphlets, and from secondary materials such as books and magazines.
The study shows that politics, the economy, civil society and potential donors, and sociocultural compatibility help to determine the prerequisites for a PSB system.
The findings also indicate that these prerequisites do not exist in Cambodia at the present time. The ruling party dominates the political scene and strictly controls the existing media system, from which it derives important political benefits. Cambodia’s weak economic conditions and low standard of living severely limit prospects for sustainable funding of a PSB system; civil society and donors have no interest in exerting pressure on the government to reform the existing media system and to place the establishment of a PBS system on its agenda, nor are they sufficiently strong to do so. In addition, Cambodian society lacks a participatory culture, which is one of the crucial requirements for the establishment of a PSB system as well as for democracy in general.
The study reaches two key conclusions. The first is that media dependency is created by the interactions of a dominant political party, a weak economy and civil society, and the absence of a participatory culture. The second is that an independent media system can emerge only when political life is no longer controlled by a single political party.
24 September 2009