PNG's national broadcaster needs huge cash injection
Papua New Guinea's main radio broadcaster is facing issues with the communications minister asking who is going to foot the bill for rehabilitation.
The communications minister in Papua New Guinea, Jimmy Miringtoro, says it will cost 109 million US dollars to rehabilitate the state owned national radio broadcaster, the NBC.
In many areas the NBC is in a poor state but Mr Miringtoro says it is not entirely up to the government to restore.
He says provincial governments have not been pulling their weight in terms of funding and is suggesting some assets will need to be disposed of.
Don Wiseman spoke with the director general of the Institute of National Affairs, Paul Barker, about the plight of the NBC and began by asking what role it plays in communications in PNG.
PAUL BARKER: It remains critically important as the principal communicator of news both at the national level and at the provincial level. So although there has been a substantial increase in alternative methods, nevertheless, the NBC is the principal provider of communications to the whole country, and of course the short wave communications which are really the only [means of] communication available out in the rural areas.
DON WISEMAN: The minister suggests that at least part of the reason for the fact that the organisation has fallen away is that the provincial governments have not been paying their share. So who is responsible for funding this organisation?
PB: Well it is a national entity so clearly the national government has to pay the principal funding but certainly when it comes to local input and local services - we had a period when the funding to provincial governments got heavily squeezed and it was perhaps understandable that provincial governments were not making the contributions one might have hoped for, but more recently the national government has been increasing the funding allocations to provinces, or particularly the districts, and so it is perhaps understandable that the national government would expect them to chip, and in many cases some of those provincial governments will be doing so because they do very much recognise the importance of communications, communicating their own messages and wider public to their own provinces.
DW: So we have the communications minister saying that there is a vast amount of money needed to get the NBC back on the rails and also suggesting that his government is not going to come up with all of that money, so what is going to happen to the NBC?
PB: First, it is an expensive place to operate in Papua New Guinea. It is a large country, physically, with large areas that have relatively sparse populations, so you having to deliver services to places, many of which are remote. There are ways of improving communications and sharing the costs - perhaps using some of the towers that have been installed by an independent operator for mobile phone telecommunications. Maybe coming to some sharing agreement, or, as the NBC has highlighted itself over the years, the NBC's principal function should radio production and broadcasting telecommunications. It shouldn't have to be managing, owning and operating all the towers. Maybe that could be run by an independent, but certainly the national government needs to recognise that along with all other infrastructure - roads, airports and airstrips and so on, that it does have that it does have that principal function, that responsibility. It does have that responsibility of communicating with its population.
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