DW Akademie and the state-owned TV corporation Television Nationale Lao (TNL) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding. DW Akademie will be supporting TNL in creating programming more relevant to the Laotian public.
The initial project under the memorandum aims to improve Television Nationale Lao's audience share and ultimately its financial stability. It was jointly developed by DW Akademie and TNL to support the broadcaster and its provincial partner stations in launching a daily information programme. It will be shown nationwide and begin airing in approximately twelve months. The programme will feature information and current affairs items stemming from all provinces as well as the capital.
"Connecting people in Laos through the media is a positive step and we welcome the opportunity to cooperate with TNL on this," says DW Akademie Director, Gerda Meuer. "Creating programmes that connect people with each other and with the government will help the country in its development efforts and benefit the population as a whole."
For TNL to gain market share, both memorandum signatories agree the broadcaster needs to collect more information and reports directly from viewers. The German media consultants will support their Lao colleagues in developing the necessary skills and methods. "The key is to go out and listen to what people have to say. If you don't listen to your audience, why should they listen to you?" says DW Akademie's Daniel Hirschler, Country Coordinator for projects in Laos.
Television Nationale Lao, Lao PDR's government broadcaster, is under the direction of the Ministry of Information and Culture. Its role is to disseminate government policies, laws, regulations, rules, procedures and information to people across the country and to broadcast educational and entertainment programmes to local and international audiences.
However, Laos' media face strong competition from Thai TV and radio channels that broadcast popular Thai news and entertainment formats to Laos from across the Mekong River. So far, TNL and other Lao media have not been able to provide a successful response to this challenge. Laotians are thus left without their own mass media to cater to their specific needs and interests. A recent policy by the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party acknowledges the need for change and for Lao mass media to become an effective means of two-way communication between the people and their government.
Laos is one of the focal points of DW Akademie's long-term projects in Asia. It has held training workshops and provided consultancies there since the mid-1990's, and in 2009 conducted and evaluated an initial project with Lao National Radio, focussing on Savannakhet province. The project there continues. DW Akademie is also working with the National University of Laos, supporting the Department of Mass Communication in teaching journalism.