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FBC Poised To Provide 'Wide Reach' TV

* See this PMW report online:

By Tamani Nair USP's Pacific Journalism Online

SUVA: Fiji can in future look foward to far better television coverage in terms of "reach of the nation" if plans by the national radio broadcaster Radio Fiji go ahead.

In an exclusive interview with Pacific Journalism Online, Fiji Broadcasting Corporation's chief executive Isireli Kini said the broadcaster expected to reach more people then Fiji Television currently does.

The FBC is a major contender if the interim Fiji government opens the door to other players when Fiji Television's exclusive licence expires at the end of this year.

With FBC's transmission masts placed at strategic points around the country, adding TV transmitters would not be a problem, according to Kini.

"The way FM and TV signals work, they are almost like couples," he said.

"You can put them on the same mast with different frequencies."

According to Kini, this would save FBC about F$250,000 when setting up.

"In terms of spending money on capital work, we have already spent the money on our FM and to put another player on to the big mast is not really a big expenditure as compared to a totally new television station," said Kini.

Kini also admitted that the market in Fiji was not big enough for another major player.

"I am aware that the market is quite difficult to control because of the way it operates."

But he said there were ways of enticing people to watch a new station.

"It can control itself, it can expand and can actually increase the market and volume of advertising by enticing people to increase the demand," he said.

Moving from radio to television, according to Kini, was not a new concept for the media industry.

He says two fine examples were that of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Australia’s ABC for making a successful transition from radio to television.

According to Kini, a number of studies were conducted by French and Japanese experts in television development in the late 1980s.

In one such study in 1989, a Japanese group did extensive nationwide research and compiled a 62-page report.

The group concluded that "in light of both financial and economic analysis of the project, it is concluded that this project is feasible".

"Furthermore, such unquantifiable benefits as dissemination of education and information or enrichment of entertainment are expected to ensure its viability."

According to Kini, FBC had lost momentum in the transition from radio to television and it had also lost interest along the way.

The studies were done before Fiji TV was set up and it would not be applicable now since there had been a lot of changes to the society since then.

There had been changes in the population and also the majority of the public had acquired a certain type of taste in terms of the programmes that they viewed.

On the question of content in television programs, Kini said it would be ideal to have more local content. Since FBC was a public broadcaster it would be in line with its purpose to provide the public what it wanted.

But he said the corporation would need to look at the commercial aspect of running a television station. Local programmes were often costly and had little financial return.

Fiji Television chief executive Ken Clark said the station already had enough local content with Talanoa, a Fijian language programme, and Jharokha, a Hindi language programme.

There had been concern shown over the lack of interest by local television station managers in locally produced programmes.

According to Lisa Williams the Noumea-based communications officer at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, television station managers in the Pacific had "lost contact" with its pacific audience.

In a recent seminar with journalists and journalism students, Ms Williams said prioritisation of locally produced programmes should be seriously looked by the TV station managers in the Pacific.

Ms Williams said she found it difficult to air a documentary called With One Voice which she produced in New York. The programme interviewed Pacific women representatives attending the Beijing +5 conference which she believes had great significance for women in the Pacific.

"Station managers of Pacific television should show more responsibility about what they air and the relevance to its audience," she said.

"Television is a dangerous and powerful animal and it gets to me when I turn on the TV and see all these foreign programs which have no relevance to me or the people of the Pacific."

According to Ms Williams, this has decreased over the years due to the lack of monitoring and support network by station managers.

With television losing its exclusivity license by the end of this year, FBC saw it as an opportunity to rekindle its enthusiasm to starting up a television station.

But this idea was met with skepticism from Fiji Television's Clark whose answer was simply "no" to another television station surviving in Fiji.

" They will need at least F$15 million to start off," he said.

He also mentioned how long it would take for a new television station to establish itself in the market as in the case of Fiji Television.

As yet, a starting date for the television station by FBCL has not been given as talks are still underway but the enthusiasm from the management is quite favourable.



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