Saturday, January 19, 2008

In defence of Samoa's public radio 2AP

Jason Brown, writing in an editorial on his stirring Avaiki website, makes an impassioned plea against the sale of Samoa's public radio 2AP. Responding to the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi - who says the sale decision has been in the pipeline for years and "there is nothing to worry about", Brown says:
"Listeners next door in the Cook Islands might disagree.
"For years, for example, residents on the atoll of Pukapuka have tuned into 2AP not just because the language is closer to their own but because the signal from their supposed capital, Rarotonga, has been too weak to pick up.
"That's because the station was privatised in the mid-1990s by an acting broadcasting minister and friend of the current owners, while the real broadcasting minister was out of the country.
"Among other things, like cutting news bulletins, the new owners dialed down the broadcast strength to save power, i.e. money.
"This had tragic consequences for the northern atoll of Manihiki.
"Fatally unaware of looming hysteria in Rarotonga over cyclone warnings of an approaching cyclone, 19 people died in Manihiki on the first day of the cyclone season, 1st November 1997.
"Not everyone could be reached by phone, local Manihiki police did not have time to travel the large lagoon warning everyone, not everyone took the warnings seriously....

"No commission of inquiry was ever held despite it being the worst loss of life in the country's history ..."

Listen to Mailbox on RNZI tomorrow (Monday, January 21) when David Ricquish of the Radio Heritage Foundation is due to explore some of the public radio issues. Visit http://www.rnzi.com/ for shortwave frequencies and times.

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