Monday, February 20, 2006

Pacific public broadcasters underfunded

03/10/2005Our Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, shares his first impressions of a major report that has just been released on the state of the media in the Pacific Islands. Called Informing Citzens, it has been funded by AusAID under the Australian Government's Pacific Media and Communications Facility.Let me say from the start that this is no comprehensive review of the Informing Citizens Report. I just have not had the time, yet, to read it all cover to cover. And that could take me a while. After all it is 480 pages long and one quickly discovers that this no tome for the casual reader. To begin with, there is an extraordinarily long list of acronyms. In fact, eight pages of acronyms. I do not lie. Eight pages of acronyms - some 300 of them are listed. Is the Pacific a world leader in acronymania? Some organisations in the region have very catchy acronyms. I must admit I've always liked JAWS - that's the acronym for the journalism association in Samoa. In fact, it's so catchy it has survived the country's name change. When it was set up, Samoa was still known as Western Samoa and that is where the W from JAWS came from. Now that the nation's official name has been shortened to Samoa, JAWS should have become JAS - but the journalists there, understandably, have kept the much more aggressive name, JAWS, as their association's title. I did not know a lot of the other acronyms listed. AGE for instance. That apparently stands for Accelerated Girls Education. DAFF is the Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries in Niue. MELAD is not some English aristocratic organisation but the Ministry of Environment Lands and Agricultural Development in Kiribati which the report informs us has one computer (without internet access). I did recognise FAO as the Food and Agricultural Organisation - but I learnt that there's another FAO. In Tuvalu, an FAO is a Foreign Affairs Officer. CDI also gets listed twice. It's the Centre for Democratic Institutions in Australia and the Community Development Initiative in Papua New Guinea. About the longest acronym in this extensive eight-page list that you have to flick through before you get to the actual report itself is, I believe, ICESCPR. Did you know that stands for the International Covenant on Economic, Social, Civil and Political Rights? Enough on the acronyms. One section of the report I have read highlights the poor plight of public service broadcasting in the Pacific. Not one of the PSBs - sorry, Public Service Broadcasters - not one, according to the report, receives sufficient recurrent funding from government for technical maintenance, equipment replacement and upgrades, technical supplies and infrastructure. Station equipment can be outdated, broken down and inadequate and studios are often in need of significant overhauls to make them more functional. The report says lack of on-going maintenance and available technical support for the studio and transmission equipment has been an issue for well over a decade. It says the pressure to corporatise, combined with reduced annual subsidies, has meant that some public service stations in the Pacific are more focused on raising revenue and selling airtime than developing their services. Before I finish I should mention one acronym that is surprisingly absent from that list. While RNZI, Radio New Zealand International, is there, RA - Radio Australia is not. Shame!

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