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Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Satellite TV costs soar in Burma

Satellite dishes
The new fee is three times the average salary

Burma has imposed a huge rise in satellite television fees, in a move critics say is designed to limit access to foreign media.

The fee for renewing the licence has risen to 1m kyat ($800, 400), far beyond the reach of most people.

There was no announcement about the rise, and people only learnt about it when they went to renew their licences.

The media is tightly controlled in Burma, and many people get their news from foreign satellite channels.

The cost of renewing a satellite licence has risen by 16,566%, from 6,000 kyat ($5, 2.50) to 1m kyat, three times the average annual salary.

Even though no official reason has been given for the increase, the BBC's Myint Swe said it could be to censor foreign media.

It could also be to earn more revenue, since the government is short of hard currency, he says.

Key source

The government is trying to shut our ears and eyes
Thant Zin, 57-year-old civil servant

Satellite channels were a key source of information for Burmese residents during September's crackdown on anti-government campaigners, in which at least 31 people died.

Although the rise will mainly affect over 60,000 middle-class licence holders and businesses, it will also effectively raise prices at public video halls and will be a big blow to sports fans and TV viewers all over the country, observers say.

"We will not install this satellite dish anymore, as we can't afford the annual fee and if they find out we have satellite we will also be in trouble," one resident told the AFP news agency.

"The government is trying to shut our ears and eyes," Thant Zin, a 57-year-old civil servant, told the Associated Press.

"The military regime does not want us to know the truth about our country, " he said.

The official state media regularly denounces news organisations such as the BBC, Voice of America and the Democratic Voice of Burma.



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