MARTYN Namorong and I were yarning with his parents, Charlotte and Warete, at their Hohola home the other day when I brought up the subject of Martyn’s razor-sharp and very literate English prose.
“Where,” I asked, “did this young boy at the Kumusi logging camp in the Western Province, learn to speak and write such immaculate English.”
Well, it had helped that his mother was a teacher and his father a learned man, but a large part of Martyn’s answer took me by surprise.
“It was Radio Australia,” he said. “We used to listen faithfully to the broadcasts and we learned from them.”
Throughout Papua New Guinea there were many thousands of Martyns, whose knowledge of the English language and whose interest in the wider world beyond their immediate location was sparked and nurtured by Radio Australia.
And now the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in its insular wisdom, has turned off the switch of those shortwave transmitters.
A multitude of people – kids in PNG, fishing boat skippers in the Gulf, missionaries in Tonga, teachers at remote schools in Simbu – have lost a key source of knowledge because of this ill-considered decision.
But there has been one immediate beneficiary. Radio New Zealand International (RNZI).
The Kiwis, always more conscientious attuned to the Pacific than Australians ever were, continue to provide the news offer what has been termed “a vital lifeline in times of natural disaster”.
Remote parts of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu who may be feeling the loss of the ABC can rest assured RNZI will continue to provide independent, timely and accurate news, information and weather warnings as well as entertainment to its Pacific listeners,” says Radio New Zealand boss, Paul Thompson.
Well, Paul’s free kick deserves an airing. He clearly knows more about how things are at the receiving end of radio than his ABC counterpart Ms Guthrie ever will.
“Fewer than 15 people have contacted us since we made the announcement, so the number of people affected seems to be very small,” Ms Guthrie told the Australian Parliament.
So that’s how they measure audience in the ABC now is it? In my day we used to be a little more scientific than that, and actually undertake some thorough research not just retail the village gossip.
Some 20 other radio stations across the Pacific relay RNZI material daily and the RNZI signal can be heard as far away as Japan, North America, the Middle East and Europe.
“A Vanuatu villager told our reporter Koroi Hawkins that he knew to take shelter during Cyclone Pam just because of the warnings broadcast on RNZI,” said Paul Thompson. “At times like this we are the essential voice of the Pacific.”
RNZI’s coverage of the aftermath of Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu in 2015 won RNZI reporter Koroi Hawkins a silver medal at the prestigious New York Festival Radio Awards in 2016.
Good on ‘em.
Some material in my article was sourced from this story at Radio Info