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NEWS: RADIO AUSTRALIA LAUNCHES KHMER FM SERVICE IN CAMBODIA

by GRANT GODDARD www.grantgoddard.co.uk
by
GRANT GODDARD
www.grantgoddard.co.uk

May 2004

Radio Australia's Khmer-language programming is now broadcast live on FM

in Cambodia for the first time. The daily half-hour show, which comprises

news, current affairs and features on health, agriculture and education, is

produced in Melbourne by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and sent via the PanamSat 8 satellite to independent Phnom Penh radio station "FM 102" for broadcast at 0600 and 1200 local time.

A memorandum of understanding signed 28th April at the Women's Media

Centre in Phnom Penh extends the previous four-year agreement whereby Radio Australia has e-mailed scripts of international news stories to FM 102 five times a day for inclusion in its news bulletins. The signing ceremony was attended by Jean-Gabriel Manguy, Head of Radio Australia, and Karen Lanyon, First Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Phnom Penh. Both were interviewed live on-air about the new arrangement.

Manguy explained that Radio Australia's "Partnership Network" involves co- operation with 180 radio stations in 25 Asia and Pacific countries. He told listeners: "We feel very pleased and very honoured that the Women's Media Centre recognises that programmes from ABC provide useful information. On 1st May, FM 102 becomes the 32nd station to receive programmes live by satellite from ABC."

Manguy was keen to stress the similar editorial perspectives of Radio Australia and FM 102: "What we do is to provide good, reliable information, just like the values that the Women's Media Centre is trying to promote. Many of our objectives are common. Perhaps what is most important is that we are both independent organisations - independent of commercial influence and political influence."

Karen Lanyon emphasised the importance of co-operation to strengthen the

relationship between Cambodia and Australia. "This initiative is the fruit of a lot

of work between the Women's Media Centre and Radio Australia, with the

support of the [Cambodia] Ministry of Information and the Australian

government," she said. "We are impressed by the increasing professionalism

in the Women's Media Centre's coverage of current affairs."

After the signing ceremony and on-air interview, the Women's Media Centre threw a celebration party in the car park adjacent to its studios, directly beneath its 10,000 watt FM transmission tower. The Australian guests, station staff and guests from the Ministry of Information were entertained by karaoke singing, Khmer dancing and an extensive buffet.

The Women’s Media Centre is an independent non-profit organisation that

uses the media to promote social change in Cambodian society. It was founded on International Women’s Day 1993 by five Cambodian women, following the United Nations-sponsored national elections held that year. Over the last eleven years, its impact on the general Cambodian population has been immense, despite existing in a part of Asia where freedom of the media

is not guaranteed, and women’s position in society is still far from equal.

The Centre launched FM 102 on International Women's Day 1999, and its 16 hours per day of educational and socially informative programming reaches 60% of Cambodia’s population in 12 provinces. Audience research commissioned by the Danish Institute for Human Rights in 2003 found FM 102 to be the most listened to radio station in Cambodia, a testimony to its success in producing programmes that touch the lives of ordinary people. The Women’s Media Centre has been supported by overseas governments and international broadcasters, and has been visited by many dignitaries, including HRH Princess Anne. A 1000-watt FM relay station has recently been added in the provincial town of Kompong Thom.

FM 102’s Mission Statement is “to use the media to raise awareness of social issues in Cambodia and to improve the situation of women for the benefit of Cambodian society” as well as “to improve the participation and portrayal of women in the mainstream media." The station employs 15 full-time staff (14 women and 1 man), including Station Director Ms Chea Sundaneth who worked as reporter and producer of women’s programmes for Radio UNTAC, the national AM radio station run by the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia from 1992 to 1993.

Radio Australia's Khmer programmes are produced by four staff in Melbourne, with assistance from two stringers in Phnom Penh. The Khmer service resumed broadcasts to Cambodia in 2001 via shortwave transmitters in Singapore after a four-year interregnum. Under the new agreement, Radio Australia provides FM 102 with satellite receiving equipment and covers the "operational costs" of the relay. Radio Australia joins several other international broadcasters - the BBC World Service, Radio France International, the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia - whose programming is broadcast within Cambodia, and has plans to extend the live relay of its Khmer programme to five or six provincial FM radio stations in Cambodia.

[First published in 'Radio World' magazine as 'ABC Adds To FM 102 Programming', September 2004, p.10]

Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at http://www.grantgoddard.co.uk