Friday, August 18, 2017

Broadcasting deals in line with law: ministry

 

The Ministry of Information has been forced to respond to allegations that deals with existing private radio and television broadcasters were not made in accordance with the law.

At a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw on October 8, Deputy Minister for Information U Paik Htwe said the two television networks and six private FM radio stations granted licences between 2004 and 2010 were set up in accordance with the law.

“All of these agreements were submitted to the Myanmar Investment Commission according to the terms in the contract. Then they were submitted to the Ministry of Finance and Revenue and the Attorney-General’s Office. All of these businesses were awarded licences step by step in accordance with the law,” he said.

While State Law and Order Restoration Council Law 9/89 – also known as the State-owned Economic Enterprises Law – gives the state “the sole right to carry out … broadcasting service and television service”, U Paik Htwe said the licences had been issued legally. The State-owned Economic Enterprises Law also bans private-sector involvement in the telecommunications sector but did not stop the government from issuing two operating licences to foreign telecoms firms earlier this year.

MRTV director general U Tint Swe said the 12-year deal with Forever Group would expire in 2016, while Shwe Than Lwin’s 33-year contract for Sky Net runs until 2043.

Mandalay FM has a 30-year contract to 2038, while Golden Wave’s Shwe FM, Myanmar Album Media Group’s Cherry FM, Thein Than Kyaw’s Padamya FM, Myanmar Online’s Pyinsawady FM and Htoo Trading’s Bagan FM each signed three-year deals 2010, he added.

Debate over the status of the broadcasters has arisen in part because of plans to introduce a broadcasting law (see related story). On October 4, Eleven Media Group, a trenchant critic of the ministry and private broadcasters, published an article criticising “inaccuracies” in the draft law.

The deputy minister rejected the claims in the article but U Tint Swe said all contracts with private broadcasters are being re-examined in light of the new law to see whether they need to be amended.

He added that it was unclear whether the review would be completed this year.

The director general also clarified the tax status of the broadcasters, revealing that Forever Group, the private partner in the MRTV-4 joint venture with the Ministry of Information, has paid K10.869 billion in tax since 2005-06. Shwe Than Lwin’s Sky Net, which was set up in 2010, began paying tax in July, after a three-year tax exemption period ended, he said.

U Tint Swe said tax exemptions, which can range from two to 15 years, are granted to ventures where significant start-up capital is required.

Between 2009-10 and August 2013, Mandalay FM has paid K192.79 million in tax, while Shwe Fm has paid K21.347 million, Cherry FM K39.340 million, Padamya FM K30.217 million, Pyinsawady FM K11.917 million and Bagan FM K21.784 million.

But U Tint Swe said tax payment and collection concerns the Ministry of Finance and it is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Information.

“We made agreements [with private companies] to run the business.” – Translated by Thiri Min Htun