SYLVESTER GAWI | Pacific Media Watch
LAE - I grew up in the 1990s listening to NBC Radio – Radio Kundu – which was informative and always reaching out to the population of Papua New Guinea who could afford a transmitter radio.
From entertaining string band tunes, toksave segments and nationwide news coverage to the popular school broadcasts in classrooms, the National Broadcasting Corporation was the real voice of Papua New Guinea.
It contributed immensely to the nation’s independence, growth and development and stood steadfastly to promote good governance and transparency in development issues the country faces.
For more than 40 years it has been the most effective communication medium for most ordinary citizens who benefited from its nationwide coverage.
I was a young kid back then and grew up inspired to take up a job in radio broadcasting, particularly with the NBC.
Radio Morobe was the ultimate choice for listeners all over this province. It broadcast on medium wave, shortwave and FM frequencies and reached even the rural and isolated regions of Morobe and neighbouring provinces.
The Radio Morobe studio building was constructed and opened in October 1971 and since then it, like its pioneer broadcasters, have aged with time into the 21st century.
The Morobe provincial government has neglected its upgrading and funding over the last 10 years or more and the building has crumbled.
It was condemned in October 2018.
I joined the NBC in 2015 and until now have worked among a new crop of officers and a few oldies.
There are some notable areas where the Morobe provincial government has failed to assist NBC Morobe despite provincial governments being tasked to upkeep NBC radio services.
There has been little or no annual funding for station operations; a tranmission tower built for NBC Morobe was taken over and managed by the provincial authority, making millions but with nothing from its revenue given to NBC Morobe; poor general maintenance and replacement of studio facilities; and transmission not reaching the wider population in remote areas.
District authorities do not realise the power of communication to their people and the need to fund its reach in their electorates.
Politicians and aspiring politicians make empty promises and use the radio to promote their agendas, but go into hiding when elected
And now the radio station structure has been condemned by authorities as unsafe.
NBC Morobe is no longer broadcasting
Furthermore, NBC Morobe management and staff are now locked out of their temporary studio because bill have not been paid. The landlord is the provincial government through its business arm Morobe Sustainable Development Ltd.
It has been almost six months since the NBC building was condemned by PNG Power as unsafe. Nothing concrete has been done to rebuild it despite political promises.
NBC Morobe has been off-air for about three months and staff are still on the payroll without being at work. The same problem is being faced by the majority of NBC radio stations nationwide.
Our people are being denied their freedom to be informed on their government’s performance. And information on health, education and disaster awareness are not reaching the people.
Land and resource owners are being denied their freedom of expression. The people can no longer send toksaves [announcements] to their loved ones, but are forced to pay for expensive and often poor telecommunication methods.
The high cost of sea travel and road trips on deteriorating roads have cost so many lives, yet our government keeps promising the people that they will fix NBC services.
As multi-million kina resource extraction projects sprout all over Morobe, our people are not informed on the positive and negative impacts to their land, sea and rivers.
I hope our new communication minister Koni Iguan can fix this. His own Markham electorate cannot receive the NBC signal and the Markham valley itself is an important economic hub of this country.