‘Let’s tell our own stories’ – Pacific broadcasters seek sovereignty

Pasifika broadcasters
Pasifika broadcasters . . . providing a platform where Pacific people can share those stories themselves. Image: Tagata Pasifika

By Alice Lolohea of Tagata Pasifika

Twenty five broadcasters from 13 Pacific countries touched down in Auckland recently for the Pacific Broadcasters conference.

A meet and greet filled with lots of talanoa, networking and healthy debate, the conference was a welcome change from a typical Zoom meeting.

Natasha Meleisea, chief executive of Pacific Cooperation Broadcasting Ltd (PCBL), which operates Pasifika TV, says the conference was about uniting Pacific broadcasters.

“I’ve kind of shared messages today around, it’s never a solo journey. There is strength in the collective and partnerships is really important,” Meleisea says.

“For a very long time we’ve had Pacific voices or Pacific stories being told by non-Pacific. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“However, it’s good to provide a platform where our own Pacific people can share those stories themselves and PCBL, Pasifika TV enables that.”

Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Cooperation (VBTC) chief executive Francis Herman says that after seeing Vanuatu stories in the hands of overseas productions, story sovereignty is an important point of discussion.

‘Misconstrued a lot of things’
“We’ve noticed that in previous years, people have just flown in, told our stories, misconstrued a lot of things,” says Herman.

Public Interest Journalism Fund

“[They’ve] gone for the ratings, gone for the dollars and left us high and dry, and they really haven’t told the real stories. We are the experts in our own culture, our own island, or about our people.”

But Herman says the PCBL partnership has been a “faithful . . . and equal partnership.”

“We haven’t been seen as a very small island developing state or a very small broadcaster. They’ve treated us as equals.

“We tell our own stories. We know our audience better, we know our country better than they do.

“Let’s tell our stories. And I think Pasifika TV has given us that opportunity and that’s why we’ve continued that partnership.”

Story sovereignty major factor for Pacific broadcasters. Video: Tagata Pasifika

Part of that partnership includes training in camera production, operation of Live U units and journalism training, something which Kiri One TV chief executive Tiarite George Kwong deeply values.

“Kiri One just started five years ago . . . and so we are very new in this kind of industry,” Kwong says.

‘Upgrading our skills’
“The idea for the partnership with PCBL is to upgrade our skills so that the news that we produce is up to the standard that people want to listen and watch every day.

Pacific Cooperation Broadcasting Ltd CEO Natasha Meleisea
Pacific Cooperation Broadcasting Ltd CEO Natasha Meleisea . . . “There is strength in the collective and partnerships is really important.” Image: Tagata Pasifika

“Compared from day one that we started, we have seen the improvement.”

Broadcasters like Mai TV in Fiji have taken the PCBL training one step further, when they acquired the netball rights for the Oceania Netball Series in 2022, their first time to do so.

“We were thinking we cannot do this because you need all the different equipment and costs and things,” says director of Mai TV Stanley Simpson.

“But we spoke with PCBL and they found solutions for us. And through that we were able to take the Oceania Netball series to Tonga, to Samoa and the Cook Islands, which is the first time that we were able to distribute rights from Fiji.

Pacific broadcasting workshop
Pacific broadcasting workshop . . . “The empowerment has been really strong.” Image: Tagata Pasifika

“That empowerment has been really strong. And from the discussions and the inspiring conversations we’ve had with the team at PCBL, it made us look around and realise that we have the best stories in the world in the Pacific.”

Now that their Pacific counterparts are receiving the necessary training and equipment, Meleisea says there is an abundance of Pacific content being produced from their regional partners.

‘A phenomenal feat’
“We went to air in 2016, at that point in time we weren’t getting any content from the Pacific. Fast forward eight years down the track, we’re now getting eight to 10 hours a day from the Pacific, which is a phenomenal feat.

“In order to achieve that, it’s been a slow build. It’s been about providing equipment, providing training, and then providing the infrastructure and the connectivity to enable it.

“So without all of those three things, we wouldn’t have been able to get the content from the region.”

Funded as part of NZ’s Public Interest Journalism project. Republished from Tagata Pasifika with permission.

Twenty five broadcasters from 13 Pacific countries gathered for the Pacific Broadcasters Conference
Twenty five broadcasters from 13 Pacific countries gathered for the Pacific Broadcasters Conference. Image: Tagata Pasifika
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