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Indigenous Language Tv Station Mooted

Indigenous Language Tv Station Mooted

SUVA (Wansolwara/Pacific Media Watch): A Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBCL) initiative to set up a Fijian language television station will not only carry programmes in Fijian but also the languages of Rotuma and Rabi islanders.

FBCL¹s chief executive Francis Herman says other Pacific Island countries have their own language stations.

"Fiji is unique in the world in terms of its culture. If most of the other Pacific Island countries have it, why can¹t we? ² he said, referring to Samoa and Tonga.

The matter was raised at the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) conference held at a Nadi resort in February.

At the meeting, Thomson Foundation director and TV management consultant Gareth Price told Wansolwara that for a unique culture to survive, it must be allowed to express itself in the most modern and powerful medium of communication - television.

In 2001, FBCL engaged Price to prepare a report - "The Future of Fijian Language Television" - on the future of TV services in the Fijian and Hindi languages and what part FBCL could play.

Price says indigenous languages are threatened by the primacy of the increasingly powerful international English language.

In Fiji, the problem occurred when the English language was used to the exclusion of minority languages, as in broadcast.

³There can be little argument that there is a basic need for the provision of programming in both Fijian and Hindi as a basic expression of the contemporary cultural situation in Fiji,² Price said in his report.

FBCL¹s Fijian language programme director Sitiveni Halofaki agrees. He says the idea of a Fijian language TV station is an untapped opportunity. Halofaki is concerned that apart from the school system, Fijians have no other way of understanding their language.

³All they learn now is English, especially with the influence of majority of the advertisements in the English language,² he said.

Fiji TV chief executive Ken Clark stressed, however, that Fiji TV was established as an English language television station.

"People from all types of ethnic origins like our shows. Are we failing a particular branch of our community? I don¹t think so.²

However, he agreed that in the development of a Fiji public television station, there should be room for Hindi and Fijian language and cultural programs.

³We do some programming in Fijian, we do news highlights every night, we do Viti Ni Kua every week and others from time to time,² he added.

Clark said that if another television station was set up in the market, the cost of programming can multiply significantly.

"If that happens in Fiji, it would affect us very significantly so we have to take those factors into account.²

According to Clark, in the event of a Fijian language TV station being established, it was highly unlikely to be a channel dedicated entirely to the Fijian language but more likely to be a Fiji public television channel ³in which there is a significant language component².

But Herman says the Fijian language TV station would contain about 90 percent local programmes with Rotuma and Rabi also on the programming list.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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