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By Patrick Decloitre

NADI, Fiji islands (October 1, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---Executives and decision-makers from Pacific Islands television organizations are meeting in Fiji this week.

The meeting is jointly coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), its Suva-based Regional Media Center and the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

One of the main objectives of the meeting is for participants to assess the effectiveness of television services the Pacific, where most are less than ten years old.

Twelve years ago, in 1989, the first meeting of this kind (hosted by SPC and UNESCO) took place.

"Twelve years later, there's been a change in the culture of the Pacific. Story telling, song singing are disappearing. They are being replaced by television, especially in the urban centers," SPC's Senior Deputy Director General Jimmie Rodgers told the participants Monday at the opening ceremony in Nadi.

"The Pacific has taken to the television. Today, even the sitting arrangement in our homes has been structured around this box."

Dr. Rodgers, a Solomon Islander, said television in the Pacific has changed "the cultural behavior of our young people."

"Whatever they see in the box is something to be copied. This has resulted in violence or increased smoking or drinking habits. And TV has been blamed for bringing these in the Pacific.

"We all know the importance of education and we welcome contributions from you, the experts, on how we can influence the content of programs.

"There are important questions to be answered, such as what is the principal role of TV in our respective countries and territories? What has it done to support socio-economic development? And where do we go from here?

"The recommendations expected to come out at the end of the meeting will help shape not only national, but regional development of television in the Pacific," Dr. Rodgers said.

He stressed that the arrival of television in the Pacific bears some advantages in that it "provides a new service of entertainment to the population.

"I suppose this is the good side of television."

UNESCO's regional communication adviser Tarja Virtanen believes a global village is in the making.

"The virtual shrinking of our world has meant that we are now living in an increasingly compact world, one in which there are very few barriers to financial, technological, or information flows."

"The aim of this meeting is to assess the situation, the challenges and needs of the Pacific Islands TV in the new millennium as well as to look into solutions first and foremost through mutual support, and sharing," she explained at the meeting's opening.

"The real bonds which make our world a good place to live in will be cultural, political, and spiritual ones, encompassing not only economic but also social aspects. They require dialogue, knowledge and acknowledgement of others, tolerance and awareness of the infinite diversity of humanity of which the Pacific region is a magnificent example.

Participants to the meeting include, for the first time, all three RFO (French Overseas Network) television stations, which are in New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia.

Also represented, beside the Pacific regional television stations executives, are such diverse organisations as the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, the Pacific Islands Broadcasting Association, the Pacific Islands News Association, the University of the South Pacific, Australia's ABC, TV New Zealand, and Fiji's Film and TV unit.

In addition to SPC and UNESCO, France and Taiwan/Republic of China have also provided financial assistance for the four-day meeting. 

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