PNG AGENCY SAYS TV STATION SALE PREMATURE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 4) - The recently reported sale of Papua New Guinea’s sole television station, Media Niugini (EMTV), to a Fijian company has struck a problem with national licensing authority Papua New Guinea Telecommunications Authority (PANGTEL).

PANGTEL director general Charles Punaha told a press conference on Thursday that he first heard of the proposed sale from media reports. His organization had still not been notified officially of the sale.

Punaha warned that approval of the sale was not automatic and an accumulated debt owed to PANGTEL would have to be cleared up before the license could be transferred to the new proposed owners, Fiji Television.

[The Fiji Times last week reported that Fiji TV had bought EMTV for A$2.1million (about F$2.7 million) from one of Australia's largest media and leisure groups, Publishing and Broadcasting Limited after the Government of PNG could not decide whether or not to buy into the venture. The newspaper reported Fiji TV is now owner of 20 million issued shares of Media Niugini. Media Niugini which is PNG's only free-to-air station is trading as EMTV and has been in operation for about 17 years. Fiji Television has been operating free to air for 10 years.]

Meanwhile EMTV sales and marketing general manager Glenn Armstrong yesterday said he had stated the case during a round table discussion between PANGTEL and EMTV that a change of shareholding between PBL Pacific Television (a shareholder of EMTV) to Fiji Television had no effect on the operations of Media Niugini, which owns EMTV.

Punaha said PANGTEL was waiting for a formal letter from Media Niugini, to inform them of the decision to sell EMTV.

He said if EMTV had notified them before the media reports on the sale of PNG’s only television station, PANGTEL would have assessed Fiji Television’s capacity to provide the service in accordance with the license’s terms and conditions.

"We have to make sure the new owner is a ‘fit and proper person’ for this purpose, otherwise it would appear that EMTV could be sold to anyone," he said.

He said EMTV had not written a formal letter to PANGTEL to notify them of the sale.

"The normal procedure is that at the time of the discussions to sell EMTV, PANGTEL should have been consulted so that we would have the appropriate time to assess the financial and technical capabilities of Fiji Television," he said.

Punaha said a letter was sent to EMTV on Thursday to confirm the sale.

Armstrong said EMTV management was disappointed to read about PANGTEL’s concerns in one of the daily newspapers (last Friday).

"We received Punaha’s letter on Thursday afternoon and we were trying to reply to the letter on Friday when we read the article," he said.

He said the paper failed to get both sides of the story before it published PANGTEL’s concerns last week.

The letter from PANGTEL directed EMTV to inform the purchaser that without PANGTEL’s approval, EMTV and the new owners would be operating without a valid license from the date change in the ownership takes effect. This would be deemed as an illegal broadcasting service and PANGTEL would disconnect the service.

January 5, 2005

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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