PM Orders Shutdown Of Private Vanuatu Radio Station

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FM 107 will continue broadcasts while lawyers review issues

By Thompson Marango

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 10, 2013) – Prime Minister Sato Kilman has instructed through a letter dated January 3, 2013 for the ni-Vanuatu owned private radio station FM 107 "to cease operations immediately as it is operating in contravention of Section 43 (1) of the Broadcasting and Television Act."

FM 107 Station Management has acknowledged receiving the letter and confirms the issue is now in the hands of its lawyers who are working on the matter.

According to advice from its lawyers, "the station will continue to broadcast for the sake of its clients and listeners."

The Prime Minister’s letter addressed to Moses Stevens as Manager of the Station referred to another letter of June 2011 "concerning FM 107’s continued breach of the Broadcasting and Television Act and Regulations governing issuance of Broadcast License by continuing to operate without a license."

According to the Prime Minister, his 2011 letter "placed FM 107 on notice for failing to comply with the conditions of its previous license and did not have a valid operating license for the period of 2011or 2012 licensing periods."

"According to our records, we have not received a response to that letter," the Prime Minister stated in the letter.

Another letter was also said to have been sent by the Prime Minister to the Station on December last year on the same matters.

"I have been advised by the Government’s Broadcast Licensing Advisory Committee that according to their records FM 107 has committed the following breaches:

"As Prime Minister and Minister responsible for Media, I am concerned that FM 107 has continued to operate with total disregard for the laws governing Broadcasting and has added injury by tailoring its "Tok Bak Sho" programs in a manner which can easily incite disorderly public reaction.

"What is even more concerning is that FM 107 has broadcast what amounts to repeated swearing, death threats which included the mention of bullets against people through their "Tok Bak Sho", without appropriate cautioning to those making such statements on air.

"The Constitutional Freedom of Expression which you lay claim to be operating under are not open ended as this and other freedoms in the Constitution are also limited to the extent that one cannot infringe on or abuse another person’s rights and freedoms in the process.

"If FM 107 shows were professionally managed by personnel with over 20 years’ experience, we would not be having this discussion.

"By your own words, you are admitting on behalf of your principals to committing an intentional flouting and breaking of the law by continuing to operate FM 107 without a proper broadcasting license since 2010.

"As the previous Capital FM 107 license was not transferrable, you do not have the valid operation license, therefore you cannot operate your business and this is the same for all other private broadcasting stations and any other business in Port Vila and Vanuatu."

After giving the instruction for its closure, the Prime Minister warns that "failure to do so will result in criminal proceedings against the Broadcasting stations."

The Prime Minister also stated in the letter that he also instructed relevant authorities to conduct investigations into FM 107’s other activities to determine whether criminal or civil charges should be laid against the management and principals behind FM 107.

He advises that the station may reapply for another license to operate again once all outstanding issues have been settled to the satisfaction of the Broadcast Licensing Advisory Committee.

The FM 107 Manager was also advised by the Prime Minister that its approval for a second FM Radio license and TV license has expired and a reapplication will be required and the permit will only be issued once all other outstanding issues are settled.

"If you wish to have this decision reviewed, you must contact the Broadcast Licensing Advisory Committee who will then make the appropriate recommendations to my office," the Prime Minister concluded in his letter.

Meanwhile the President of the Media Association Vanuatu (MAV), Evelyn Toa says Vanuatu as a democratic country through its constitution, should promote freedom of expression.

However, she said the issue with the station’s license is a matter for its management.

With the issue of Talkback Shows, the MAV President said callers can’t be controlled and FM 107 is not the only station to face such challenge and can’t be pinpointed for the issue.

"Media in Vanuatu will not cease to do it role because the people need to know what is happening," Toa told Daily Post yesterday.

Instead she said MAV wants to work with any government of the day and national leaders have to use the media effectively and avoid the perception of media being an enemy.

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