9 Nov 2005

Cooks government threatens to shut down TV transmitter

2:21 pm on 9 November 2005

The Cook Islands government is threatening to turn off the power to a television service transmitter.

The minister of internal affairs, Rairi Rairi, says the transmitter of Cook Islands television in Tupapa will no longer be able to run off the electricity supply in his ministry.

The owner of Cook Islands television, George Pitt, says he has a contract with the transmitter owner, Telecom, to pay for the power supply to the mast.

Mr Pitt says the move is a personal retaliation by Mr Rairi because the newspaper which Mr Pitt owns reported allegations about Mr Rairi's daughter.

Mr Rairi says the problem is in Telecom's hands and Mr Pitt should leave his family alone.

A key proponent of public broadcasting Flo Syme-Buchanan, says the spat shows the weakness of the current system, in which a commercial broadcaster is reliant on state-owned transmission equipment.

"It's only come to light because of a disgruntled head of ministry. He didn't like what was written about him, so he's reacted this way, and the public now know they've been paying for a commercial radio service."

Ms Syme-Buchanan wouldn't say whether a public service broadcaster wouldn't be at the same risk of angering the government as a commercial station.