The newly-launched Pasifika TV provides free-to-air news, sport and drama content to 13 Pacific countries as part of New Zealand’s Pacific Reset commitment.
The New Zealand 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, Maori TV and Sky.
Cook Islands Television, Vaka TV and Araura TV on Aitutaki are all now making use of the 24/7 content feed – a New Zealand government initiative, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, with the overall aim to build stronger relationships in the Pacific region.
Earlier this month, representatives of CITV and Vaka TV were at TVNZ’s Auckland studios for the launch of PasifikaTV.
Tai Blake, a contractor with VakaTV, said he was worlds away from his usual Rarotongan workplace upstairs in the old Chilli’s nightclub building.
“We are just operating off computers and to come in and witness all these big studio production equipment – for us it was breath-taking,” 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 over three years on the dedicated Pasifika TV channel.
Vaka TV’s chief executive David Reuther was also at the opening in Auckland.
He said the 24 hour a day programme feed means the local TV channels now have a much wider option for scheduling programmes of interest to Cook Island viewers.
Reuther said Vaka TV wants make its own programmes on Cook Islands subjects that could be uploaded to Auckland broadcast on the other 12 nations via PasifikaTV.
As part of the New Zealand initiative, there will be contestable funding from next year to encourage Pacific broadcasters to make their own content.
Cook Islands Television’s chief executive Jenny Matenga said her company had already provided material back to PasifikaTV – having uploaded the local car programme Raro Revs and the soldiers documentary Finding Our Way to Atiu.
Her company is also making good use of the New Zealand-based programme feed with PasifikaTV now being broadcast on CITV from midday to 5pm Monday to Saturday.
“It’s really helpful,” Matenga says. “We are a small country and we’re a small television station – being given this free programme content is great. We create 40 minutes of our own content each day. It’s very difficult to create our own content, so we appreciate it.”
Matenga said the content was currently mostly New Zealand-flavoured material – "but this can only improve as the Pacific countries involved share their own local stories".
“We want to see our people standing up on the podium. We want to see our people participating at these great events,” Vaka TV’s Blake said.
“Our young people have got our own people to look up to now and, I guess, that actually takes it a step further for achievements.”
The free service comes with no cost but underlying global politics are involved.
“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 – the Pacific will also receive programmes more relevant to them, TVNZ's Pacific reporter Barbara Dreaver commented.
Samoa Broadcasting chief executive Faiesea Matafeo said: “Any information that helps broaden the intellect or widens our people’s perspective is much appreciated.”
Pasifika TV’s chief executive 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 number is set to increase as more companies embrace the service.