Burma’s sudden embrace of democratic reforms has created a wild new frontier economy, released media from the chokehold of censorship, and unlocked the prison gates of political prisoners.
Pre-publication censorship of print news media in Burma ended in August 2012. Restrictions on advertising content (including prohibitions on specific advertising categories and the use of various types of imagery) were lifted. Journalist associations have formed, disbanded, and been recreated. All parts of the media ecosystem are changing and every aspect of the media infrastructure is being challenged.
Within this dynamic scenario, very real risks exist for independent media. A “perfect storm” is emerging in which the media market expands unnaturally without a concurrent growth in advertising revenues, reporting capacity, distribution channels, legal protections, or experienced business management.
Independent media still face multiple layers of economic constraints, including the continued use of licensing as a form of media control. There do not yet exist the legal, regulatory, or economic environments that will support a thriving and competitive independent media sector.
The Business of Media in Myanmar provides an in-depth profile of the fast changing media sector in Burma, from government regulation, to the economic environment and the growth of media outlets themselves. Putting these developments in context, the final section highlights potential hurdles and outlines recommendations to help usher the Burmese media environment into a newer, freer, more sustainable era.