Mass Media in Burma


Mass Media in Burma
   Mass media include both print (newspapers and magazines) and broadcast (radio and television) outlets for information and entertainment. Under British rule, Burma had a number of vernacular newspapers, of which the most notable were Thuriya (The Sun) and Myanma Alin (New Light of Myanmar). During the parliamentary period (1948-1962), there were as many as 56 different newspapers, published not only in the Burmese (Myanmar) language, but also in the English, Chinese, and Indian languages. After Ne Win established the Revolutionary Council in March 1962, most of these were closed down, and the Press Scrutiny Board (PSB), which remains operative today, imposed draconian censorship on the few publications that were allowed to continue. In 1966, the regime issued a decree stating that newspapers could be published only in Burmese and English.
   The Ne Win regime's principal press organ was the Loketha Pyithu Nezin (Working People's Daily), which was published in both languages, a newspaper that can be compared to the Renmin Ribao (People's Daily) in Mao Zedong-era China for its heavy propagandistic content. Radio and television (the latter introduced to Burma in 1980) were under the control of the state-owned Burma Broadcasting Service (BBS).
   During 1988, foreign radio stations, such as the Voice of America, All India Radio, and especially the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) played an indispensable role in providing Burmese listeners with credible information at a time when the state media tried to conceal events, such as the White Bridge Incident. After coming to power in September 1988, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) accused these stations of serving as instruments of neocolonial powers wishing to undermine national unity, as expressed in a regime publication, Sky Full of Lies. In the early 21st century, the BBC, Radio Free Asia, and the Voice of Democratic Burma remain important sources of information for listeners inside the country, and some observers credit their impact on Burmese people's awareness of current events as more crucial than that of information technology, such as the Internet, which the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) monitors and controls tightly.
   The SLORC's postsocialist "open economy" policies helped foster a more diverse though still compliant media scene in the 1990s. Renamed Myanma Alin (New Light of Myanmar) in 1993, the Working People's Daily remains the official mouthpiece, controlled by the Ministry of Information. A handful of other newspapers are allowed to publish, including Kyemon (Mirror Daily), City News, and Yadanabon. In 2000, the Myanmar Times and Business Review was inaugurated; this weekly, published both in English and Burmese and edited by an Australian journalist, has an appealing format and interesting stories, although it was reportedly established with the assistance of Military Intelligence and does not publish articles critical of the SPDC. There reportedly were plans to make the Myanmar Times a daily paper, but its future was uncertain after Khin Nyunt's purge in October 2004.
   In recent years, some 50 private weekly and monthly magazines have been established, among them "lifestyle" and business magazines that cater to affluent urban audiences who are influenced by global trends. A streetside newsstand in Rangoon (Yangon) might sell Eleven (sports), Dana, and Myanmar Dana (business), Image and Idea (ladies' fashion magazines), and even Golf. Like the Myanmar Times, they are glossy; Image, for example, looks like a Burmese-language version of Cosmopolitan, though more modest in content. A reader can even purchase News Update, which deals with world affairs (though apparently not relating to Burmese politics). All these publications remain subject to heavy censorship by the PSB. When officials find offending articles, they order them inked over or torn out of the magazines.
   Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV), the former BBS, manages several TV channels, including one that broadcasts in English, while the Tatmadaw has its own channel, Myawaddy TV. Programs focus on official visits by SPDC leaders to different parts of the country or overseas and are so dull that viewers look forward to seeing the commercials, which feature popular film stars or models. Imported Chinese and South Korean television dramas also have many viewers. Those tired of domestic fare can, if they can afford it, place a satellite dish on the roof of their residence, though this is technically illegal without a special permit from the government. The Yangon City Development Committee has established a new radio station, City FM, which is popular with younger people in Rangoon (Yangon). Despite the growing diversity of Burma's media, the people remain starved for reliable news. Within the relatively safe confines of their homes, listening to the BBC Burmese Service has become a valued daily routine.
   See also Motion Pictures in Burma.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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