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A New Zealand-funded TV channel to the Pacific which has been years in the making, is now operational across 13 countries.
Newly-launched Pasifika TV provides free-to-air news, sport and drama content, giving Kiwi and Pasifika a voice in a region dominated by China and Australia.
In the heart of TVNZ, where the channel is broadcast, Waka TV's Tai Blake is worlds away from his usual Rarotongan workplace.
“We are just operating off a computer and to come in and witness all these big studio production equipment for us - it was breathtaking,” Blake said. “Everyone says, you know, ‘You run on a small budget’ and all that but most of us actually have no budget and we work with what we have.”
The New Zealand Government is spending $10 million (US$6.4 million) over three years on a dedicated Pasifika TV channel.
The Government has provided the equipment, training and funding for the 24-hour-a-day feed - and it's all content given at no cost by TVNZ, Mediaworks, Māori TV and Sky.
“The expansion of the TV service will dramatically improve the way in which New Zealand content is delivered across the Pacific,” Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.
The move is not just about consolidating New Zealand's influence in a region dominated by Australia and China, however - the Pacific will also receive programmes more relevant to them.
“We want to see our people standing up on the podium. We want to see our people participating at these great events,” Blake said. “Now our young people have got our own people to look up to and, I guess, that actually takes it a step further for achievements.”
Samoa Broadcasting chief executive Faiesea Matafeo said, “Any information that helps broaden the intellect or widens our people's perspective is much appreciated.”
As part of the New Zealand initiative, there will be contestable funding from next year to encourage Pacific broadcasters to make their own content.
Pasifika TV's Natasha Meleisea said, “Another reason why this service is really important is that it provides an opportunity to amplify the Pacific voice so that we can address issues that are trending across the whole region.”
While Pasifika TV currently broadcasts out to 24 stations across 13 countries, the figure is set to increase.
“It's been a massive project for us,” TVNZ media operations manager William Maria said. “It's a really, really dynamic and interesting channel not just to watch, but to work on as well.”
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
Media Helping Media