The Ministry of Health has added its voice to government agencies urging television stations to ban smoking advertisements during prime-time viewing hours.
The ministry last week forwarded a letter to the Ministry of Information and Council of Ministers asking all stations to institute the ban between 7 pm and 9 pm.
“That is the most popular time for viewing, because most Cambodians have had dinner and are resting. So it has a strong impact on the health of audiences,” said Dr Mean Chhivun, deputy director-general at the Ministry of Health. “Particularly for the young, who haven’t gone to bed yet.”
“We need [the stations] to carry our proposal,” he added. “Smoking brands are a formidable form of advertising.”
Last year, an inter-ministerial government tobacco control committee was formed with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s approval. It is located in the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry of Health statement follows a meeting two months ago between Ministry of Information officials and station owners in which the ministry also asked station owners to stop running ads during prime time. The meeting had little effect, however.
The Association of Khmer Television has asked the Ministry of Information to delay implementing any official ban until early 2003, said association President Mao Ayouth. Stations must have at least three months’ notice to negotiate with their sponsors, he said. “This rule has come very fast, [the ministry] should study more about our situation,” he said. “But if they still demand [compliance], we must respect it.”
He said that if broadcast advertising was to be restricted, then newspapers and street advertising of tobacco should also be restricted in the name of fairness.
Broadcasters have ongoing contracts with sponsors that may last several months, said Thai Norak Satia, general director of Bayon TV. “If we stop [a contract] rapidly we will lose revenues, or must pay sponsors for our mistake,” he said.
But Fay Sam Ang, program manager for TV3, said complying with the request would be no problem for his station, because it has never relied heavily on tobacco advertising.
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