MDIF’s Myanmar Media Program has published a report analysing the Chin media sector. The report finds that there are currently 25 Chin media outlets operating in Myanmar, an anomalously high number that represents close to 40% of all local media in Myanmar’s ethnic states and regions. It also finds that the outlets provide a vital source of news and information for their audiences, while facing daunting economic challenges.
Based on research conducted by MDIF from late 2018 until December 2019, as well as a quantitative and qualitative survey conducted by Myanmar Survey Research in May 2019, the report provides unique data on Chin media operations, as well as the news and information needs and preferences of Chin living in Chin State and Sagaing Region.
The high number of Chin media outlets raises a number of questions. Why would so many people choose to set up outlets targeting ethnic minority audiences in one of the most impoverished states in the country, with the lowest consumption rates, and lowest population density? Why would 14 of them opt to produce a print publication when their audience is scattered across a mountainous region with few transport links and very limited infrastructure? And why would 21 out of 25 Chin media outlets currently operating compound these challenges by choosing to produce content in Chin languages that further restrict their potential audiences?
The research provides an insight into the role these media are playing in meeting the news and information needs of their audiences, as well as the reality of running a Chin media operation.
MDIF’s November 2018 publication An Unfavorable Business: Running Local Media in Myanmar’s Ethnic States and Regions examined the enormous internal and external obstacles that local media across the country are facing to survive. A central conclusion was that local media are operating in a business environment that is heavily weighted against their prospects for sustainability and, consequently, their existence.
The new report finds that, in many respects, Chin media face very similar problems to their counterparts elsewhere in the country. They have often been set up by individuals who are deeply committed to serving the information needs of their communities, and they are often an important source of information for their audiences. However, outlets are dealing with the challenge of managing the digital transition, while more than half are simultaneously producing print publications that remain a valuable news source for local communities.
Like local media all over the country, the research confirms that Chin media are facing a major struggle to survive financially, often having to rely on local donors and personal savings as well as more traditional revenue sources such as advertising and print copy sales. At the time of founding these media, their business potential was generally not a major consideration. They have thus largely been obliged to learn the realities of running a media business by doing, with no external advice or support.