Radio’s influence in Samoa strong, but big changes on the horizon
Samoa’s Communications Minister Afamasaga Lepuiai Rico Tupai credits his Prime Minister's weekly radio show for improving communications with the people of the Pacific island nation.
The government recently privatised its television station, but has held onto its radio station because radio is very important for government dissemination of information.”
The PM’s weekly radio program reaches the whole country plus neighbouring islands. “It started back in 2011… it raises awareness for everyone of what government developments are.”
The weekly show also helped the current government to a landslide win in the most recent election. It won 47 out of Samoa’s 50 seats in parliament.
“In the previous three elections the margin was very close, but now we have this program, the result of the last election was a landslide. That program is a very popular program every week, especially close to the election [because] the prime minister told everyone about what the government was doing.
“Also, as a result of this program people were coming to government to ask how the development work could benefit them and our government started working harder to make sure the benefits of the development work reaches everyone… to improve the livelihood of everyone in the country.”
Internet penetration has been poor in Samoa, as in other pacific islands, until now, but change is coming the Minister told AsiaRadioToday:
“We are awaiting the arrival of our first submarine [internet] cable which will be commissioned by the end of this year… our connectivity will not be a problem any more. Our objectives are efficiency in connectivity and communications and to be affordable. The growth of our country will depend on internet connectivity… which we will share with our neighbouring islands, we will be a hub to them.”
The introduction of cheaper more efficient internet will challenge the existing broadcasters, but the Communications Ministry is helping them plan for that.
“We are doing consultations with local broadcasters. They have to start planning to change their business models and adjust to what is to come. Now is the time [for broadcasters] to prepare their technology and financial processes to change.”
Minister Tupai spoke about the importance of media at the Asia Media Summit in China last week, making an impassioned plea to the world’s media to spread the message of climate change, which is affecting the Pacific islands more than most other places on earth.
“Some of these islands are already one meter below sea level… With Trump pulling out of [the climate change agreements] it makes me wonder if he is really aware of what is happening to us. Are the media playing their part to get awareness to Trump about what is happening to the Pacific island nations, it is the part of the world that is really affected by climate change.
“That’s what I am asking the media… please play your part and tell our stories, they are very emotional stories of families losing land… it’s all about awareness, media can influence this decision by Trump on climate change.”
A full interview with the minister is below.