New Solomons TV station long overdue
Solomon Islands looks at introducing public television.
Solomon Islands broadcasters and regional experts say setting up a public television service is long overdue.
The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, which operates as the national radio station, is awaiting the results of a feasibility study.
If it is compelling enough for the board and the government, a television service could go to air by the middle of next year.
Koroi Hawkins has more.
It has been several years since residents of Honiara were able to watch their own local news on what was the country's first television station - One Television Solomon Islands. The locally produced news, One News, and its progammes also reached two provincial urban centres, Auki on Malaita and Gizo in the Western Province. The station ceased to be a free to air broadcaster in 2011 when productions costs overtook the station's ability to function. Its founder, owner and chief executive, Dorothy Wickham, says she welcomes plans for Solomon Islands to get a local free to air service again.
DOROTHY WICKHAM: It's a good thing, I think we need more operators in the market and it is also good for Television that we have more than one operator in the country. Especially for a country that has 80 percent illiteracy rates TV can do a lot in terms of awareness, education but for the economics of the Industry I think it is a good thing.
The man likely to be in charge is new Chief Executive of the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, Ashley Wickham. He says a TV service is central for the SIBC.
ASHLEY WICKHAM: In Honiara while we who operate radio like to think that we have a lot of listeners to radio. It think there are far more viewers of television in the capital and put it this way we are about ten years behind the rest of the Pacific. The opportunities began to arise with the enactment of the state owned enterprises act in 2007. But nothing was followed through until more than a year ago that we put the idea to the board of directors to consider as a concept so that is where we are at right at the beginning right now.
Regardless of local opinions the man whose thoughts really count at this stage is Glen Hughes a consultant with more than 30 years of experience in television and advertising in the region. He has been hired by the Australian-funded Pacific Media Assistance Scheme to conduct the feasibility study which will be presented to the SIBC board within the next two weeks. Mr Hughes says he agrees Solomon Islands is lagging behind other Pacific countries.
GLEN HUGHES: It is quite obvious there seems to be quite a lot of cooperation here with the government and Telekom because they have a sort of a, already infrastructure in place with sort of Transmission around the islands. There is Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation which Ashley runs which is the radio service there. They already have a sort of fairly good infrastructure there with you know, news departments and production and studio facilities there and stuff. So there is certainly a good infrastructure in place there to accomodate a TV station I'm still looking at other options of how to do it but one of the most logical ones at this point of time would be to maybe have the radio station turn into a TV station as well. Pretty much like what happened in Fiji with the Fiji Broadcasting Commission.
The news of a possible TV station has also created a buzz among the local journalists who now work in print, radio and in online media organisations. The President of the Solomon Islands Media Association Leni Delavera says he hopes a new player in the industry will mean more jobs and better media coverage of important issues.
LENI DELAVERA: MASI is of the view that media freedom only has a positive impact on corruption when the informational infrastructure is of a sufficiently good quality. This means we believe TV would be a plus or positive in our current effort to stamp out corruption in the country.
If the project is approved, the new TV station is hoped to go to air in time for the country's 38th Independence Anniversary Celebrations in July next year.
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