Starting a Podcast Revolution in Myanmar
False news and hate speech are a huge problem in Myanmar. FNF works with local media houses to tackle the problem with podcasts. The new audio format can also help them to lower their dependence on Facebook.
Podcasts are still a niche product in Myanmar. Mainly international broadcasting stations offer a podcast program in the Southeast Asian country – and they only have few listeners. Aiming to strengthen the local media sector, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom is committed to establish a podcast culture in Myanmar.
In March, the FNF Myanmar invited 17 local journalists and NGO workers for a five-day long intensive training – the first one of that kind in the country. The training is part of the foundation’s International Journalist and Media Dialogue Programme (IJMD), which is funded by the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Chhavi Sachdev, an experienced podcast trainer from India who works for BBC and DW, covered all aspects of podcast production: from the Topic finding, storytelling to the recording and editing of soundbites. She also gave advice on the distribution and marketing for podcasts. After all, media houses need to earn money with their products. She conducted a similar training for FNF in Thailand.
The media sector in Myanmar is in permanent crisis. Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, many news organizations were struggling financially. With the economic impact of the disease now kicking in, many do not know how to survive. This financial stress comes on top to the pressure of the government, which is often pressing charges on critical reporters.
Furthermore, media organizations face serious difficulties due to the worldwide unique dominance of Facebook in the country. For many people in Myanmar the social network is equivalent to the internet. Some news sites get 90 percent of their traffic via Facebook. Thus, it is very important for them to create revenue channels that are independent from the large platform.
Podcasts could be a perfect format for this purpose as no big investments are required. “Before this training, we didn’t exactly know what podcasts are and how to do the things. After a one-day training, we realized that it is not that challenging for journalists. We can create podcasts with simple equipment,” says participant Hein Min Oo.
Hein Min Oo works for Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO), a close partner of FNF. MIDO’s main purpose is to strengthen digital and media literacy in Myanmar. During the workshop, Hein Min Oo produced a test pilot for a podcast series on disinformation and hate speech – a serious issue in Myanmar. Radical Monks and the army use Facebook to fuel hatred against minorities. The United Nations named disinformation as one of the catalysts for the crimes against the Rohingya minority.
Podcasts could at least be a small contribution to improving the quality of the public debate and to lower susceptibility to false news among media consumers. Insiders believe, the audio format has huge potential in the country. ”Podcast will be a new trend on which all the media houses want to jump on,” says an experienced journalist and freelance podcaster, Mratt Kayw Thu. FNF Myanmar stands ready to work with them.
Ayemyat Mon is Media & Communications Officer and Programme Assistant of FNF in Myanmar.