RMI’s AM Radio Station Unable To Broadcast After Breakdown

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

RMI’s AM Radio Station Unable To Broadcast After Breakdown Government station not reaching outer islands

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Feb. 19, 2016) – Ongoing radio broadcasting woes of the Marshall Islands government worsened this week as the government’s AM radio broadcasting equipment broke down and was unable to broadcast for days.

The problem sparked concern and debate at sessions of the parliament this week as the collapse of the AM broadcasting service meant the government station could no longer reach the thousands of islanders who live dispersed on remote outer atolls.

The government radio station’s FM broadcast continued without interruption, but only provides partial coverage of the capital atoll, Majuro. The AM station, which used to have the power to be heard on atolls 600 miles distant from Majuro, has been slowly worsening over the past several years, with many complaints in parliament but no significant improvements.

Station manager Antari Elbon said last Friday V7AB radio staff and national telecom workers were working on the problem, which they were still trying to identify and resolve. The AM station was still off as of Wednesday.

The issue of weak V7AB broadcasting power generated considerable discussion in the parliament this week, with Majuro Sen. David Kramer, Kwajalein Sen. David Paul and Maloelap Sen. Bruce Bilimon questioning the government about its plans to get the station back to where it was a few years ago when its broadcasts were adequate to reach the furthest outer island.

Kramer said V7AB needs to be a priority so people on the outer islands and around Majuro can hear parliament sessions — which are broadcast live — and get emergency information.

Minister in Assistance to the President Mattlan Zackhras agreed that the broadcast situation was deficient, and pointed out that this ongoing problem was raised repeatedly as an issue in parliament last year with little result. V7AB has refurbished its broadcast tower, but the key problem now is the need for equipment that costs $65,000 and funds have yet to be identified. He said it should be a priority for the government to locate funds to enable the purchase of the equipment to improve V7AB broadcast.

Bilimon wanted to know if funds could be located and how quickly the station could be repaired to resume broadcasting so the outer islands could tune in.

Paul said the government needed to have back-up parts and a plan for parts and maintenance of V7AB equipment to ensure this type of situation doesn’t continue as it has for years. The government is "reactive" and needs to be proactive to get out in front of this problem "so V7AB broadcasts all the time for people to hear," he said.

Last May the U.S. Interior Department approved a $40,600 grant to upgrade the government station. As of this week, only $18,000 of the funding had been obligated but none of the grant actually spent, according to the Ministry of Finance.

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