Former engineers back PM’s call for VBTC to resume national radio service

An RNZI engineer inspects Radio Vanuatu's MW transmitter, destroyed by Cyclone Pam. Photo: PACMAS

An RNZI engineer inspects Radio Vanuatu’s MW transmitter, destroyed by Cyclone Pam. Photo: PACMAS

Darryl Fallow, chief engineer in Radio Vila during the early ‘Seventies, has responded to the Prime Minister’s call for VBTC to concentrate on provision of a fully professional public service radio broadcasting signal, rather than TV, to the whole nation of Vanuatu soonest. “Suffice it is to say if it was possible to broadcast to the whole archipelago in the mid-1970s at 2kW, it MUST be possible to do the same now. There are no magic bullets and there is no need to reinvent the wheel,” Darryl correctly observes.

Indeed it was possible to reach everywhere in the New Hebrides in the 1970s. Radio Broadcasting began just after the middle of 1966, so it is also important Radio Vanuatu has something to celebrate in just a couple of months for its 50th anniversary.

Many have been the faults built into the Condominium’s system, one of the worst being a previous government”s loss of the water tanks site above the town when VBTC could not pay its telecoms bills. (This is the site for re-transmission of signals from Brodkas Haos to the Emten Lagoon transmitter farm.) However, the mistakes have all been contributed to by certain incompetent staff, ill-equipped and too political board members during constantly changing coalitions, and ministers themselves.

Kevin Page, at the station during the 1990s, sees a possible improvement to what has previously been the norm if MW transmitters are placed on a further 3 big islands, giving a total of 5, instead of just 2, rather than FM. “Medium Wave is better suited to the mountainous terrain of the Vanuatu islands and of reaching the more remote villages,” says Kevin.

Comments of the former Radio New Hebrides and Radio Vanuatu engineer / technicians will be appreciated by the PMO and PM’s PRO, Hilaire Bule, a former staffer. They have come to this writer through social media and will soon be presented in all their detail at the PMO.

All that’s needed by listeners to SW is radio batteries. But all FM towers have to have their own electricity generation and therefore fuel. They are often enough – given our geography – not exactly right for a certain percentage of the population they’re meant to cover. And those missed people can’t go climbing trees or hills for best reception during a hurricane.

Look at the fearful consequences when Vila itself is right on the cyclone path. We lost electricity in Vila with Pam for almost a week. Radio Vanuatu’s generator was not ready and Unelco was cutting off everywhere. But in Uma we had the generator going until well into the blow and as rain was pouring into the studios as the roof peeled off. But lots of little FM receivers intended to deliver the kind of music people like? They need batteries, too, but you need the electricity to charge them. These just won’t be able to talk disturbed people in increasingly damaged housing through the steps concerning where the TC is and where it’s going and whether getting worse or not – all those kinds of things. Radio Vanuatu is meant to keep the meteo information going out in all languages, right through the hurricane. And everywhere.