© 2024 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pacific News Minute: Australia Radio to End Shortwave Transmissions to Pacific

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

Earlier this month, The Australian Broadcasting Commission announced plans to end shortwave radio broadcasts to the Pacific at the end of next month. A watchdog group called The Pacific Freedom Forum is urging governments around the region to put pressure on the ABC to reconsider.  We have more from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute.

In 2009, when the military government of Fiji shut down FM radio stations, the Australian Broadcasting Commission proudly cited a text message it received from a listener: "We are trying to listen to you online but are having difficulty, " it read, "Please keep broadcasting. You are all we have."

ABC shortwave transmissions have been a staple of news throughout the Pacific for almost eighty years, and especially important in remote areas of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. The source of independent news has been vital in political crises and in natural disasters alike, providing timely warning of tsunamis and cyclones.

Michael Mason, the ABC's director of radio said, "While shortwave technology has served audiences well for many decades, it's now nearly a century old and serves a very limited audience. The ABC is seeking efficiencies," he continued, "and will instead serve this audience through modern technology."

Critics point out that the Internet is slow, patchy or non-existent in some places, while FM signals can be unreliable in bad weather, or shut down by government decree. Jason Brown of the Pacific Freedom Forum told Radio New Zealand International that people he's heard from are horrified. "Especially in the remoter communities, outside the capitals.... shortwave is how they keep connected to the world," he said.  RNZI and the BBC plan to continue their shortwave broadcasts to the region.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Related Stories