MP laments PNG's rural disconnection
A Papua New Guinea MP says that since the national broadcaster, NBC, stopped providing shortwave and medium wave radio services, people in PNG's many remote areas are starved of information about what goes on in Port Moresby.
A Papua New Guinea MP says rural communities are generally uninformed about what the country's leaders are up to.
The Bulolo MP Sam Basil says that since the national broadcaster, NBC, stopped providing short-wave and medium wave radio services, people in PNG's many remote areas are starved of information about what goes on in Port Moresby.
He says heavy investment into FM frequencies doesn't serve rural people well.
Mr Basil told Johnny Blades about what he's found in the districts.
SAM BASIL: In many electorates you won't see tangible developments because most of those monies are consumed by friends of members [of parliament], friends of the chairmen of the district development authority boards. And when members of parliament does that, you know that when a regime changes, they fear that they may be held accountable on those funds. And they have to stick on with the prime minister because the prime minister has got his hands dirty. And many members of parliament are happy to be with him because there's no accountability in that government. That is why they are sticking on.
JOHNNY BLADES: And out in those rural areas, apart from those people who are the wantoks and getting whatever benefits from the DSIP (district service improvement programme funds) flow-on - the other people, are they outraged about what's been happening, whether it be management of the economy or this stuff related to the fraud case. Are they connected, as such, to that?
SB: I've been in the recent Sanduan elections and I've gone up to the Aitape Lumi area; Sisano area; I've been to a by-election up in Pomio; I travelled the south coast of East New Britain to West New Britain, I've slept in all those villages; I've been to Goilala, the tracks of Goilala I've been walking, and last week I spent a week on the boat, travelling all the islands from Woodlark Island to Samarai Island to do a campaign. One thing that I found out from the people there is that since the decommissioning of the short-wave 1, short-wave 2 and then medium wave frequencies from the NBC some 20 years ago, nobody in those rural areas is tuning into what's happening in Port Moresby. Even some areas that I go to, they don't even know who the current prime minister is. It's because the only means of communication is cut off through the rundown facilities of the NBC - they no longer transmit through short-wave 1, short-wave 2 and medium wave frequencies. The commercialisation of FM frequencies, it's based on urban areas, it doesn't penetrate into those bushes. So we are seeing a lot of uninformed voters. But when I travelled to the by-elections last week in Samarai, I've learnt from the people that when I started updating them, they immediately make up their mind on the ground that the O'Neill government is not a good government for them with the current economic situation we are facing. So I think there is a big disconnection between the rural areas. The mass of the population don't know what's going on in Port Moresby.
JB: Is this something that people talk about a bit - obviously there's not much money around at the moment - but resourcing the NBC more to be able to do that?
SB: I think the NBC and communication ministry, I don't think they understand the frequencies that we normally have, frequencies that use atmosphere to go around the world to transmit at no cost. They are investing heavily back to FM stations. And FM stations - as long as we have the line of sight - these frequencies go as far as that. But our country is full of mountains. It needs short-wave 1, short-wave 2 and the medium wave frequencies to transmit.
Sam Basil, who is the leader of the Pangu Pati, says restoring the NBC's short-wave and medium wave reach across PNG is one of his party's policies when it makes it back into government.
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