Every now and then, I get a legit writer to send me a piece of their mind, and boy did this one SEND just that!
Radio Australia: Cutting to the chase
There are many opinions shared about the cuts to funding for Radio Australia resulting in job losses and how the Pacific coverage will suffer as a result, these opinions have been mainly shared by Australians. As an islander who has worked in the media for over ten years and worked alongside some RA and ABC journalists over the years, there are several sides to this story and how I feel about it.
The first one is sympathy for my former colleagues who have lost their jobs as a result of the cuts. No one deserves to be laid off like that, and without much prior notice or a backup plan, it’s a livelihood issue and therefore it’s sad especially for those who have children. I have worked with some very talented, humorous and lovely RA journos over the years, namely Sean Dorney, Bruce Hill, Clement Paligaru and Isabelle Genoux, they are what made RA an awesome experience as a Pacific island journalist, stringer, fixer and friend.
The second, is regret over diminishing in depth coverage of Pacific issues on Radio Australia. Having less funding means less stories from the Pacific are heard. Australians need in depth coverage from the Pacific because believe it or not we are in the same region and they need to care about where their aid dollars are going to, and know what their small island neighbours are up to. Good coverage of the Pacific on RA, ABC means higher international media visibility which when it comes disasters means quicker emergency response and relief assistance from the international community.
Third, RA and ABC provided island journalists with another avenue for work as stringers, fixers and correspondence. It was much needed additional income for some low paid journalists of the Pacific including myself when I was in the thick of it. The cuts means lesser opportunities for Pacific journalists to gain exposure to international media and to another income stream.
But will the cut in funds to RA/ABC really affect me as an islander?
To be honest, that’s a no. And call me naïve if I can’t see the bigger picture of how the cuts will affect my life, but when I wake up each morning I don’t listen to Radio Australia, I listen to Corey on Radio Polynesia, Sioeli on Mai FM and the boys on Talofa. I don’t listen to RA in the morning, because, well they talk about Australian stuff.
And to be honest, when it comes to news about my country, I would much rather listen to locals than to Australian journalists. It is only when the issue is of regional concern does the Australian coverage interest me. Save for Pacific Beat, Pulse and Dorneys items, the rest of RA products are of little interest to my island broadcast appetite.
On the use of island journalists as stringers, fixers and correspondents, ABC/RA provides some of the lowest compensation to struggling island journalists in the industry. But not just that, they don’t follow up on payments. Of the 37 pieces I filed for RA and ABC over the years that I can remember, I was only compensated for two, one I did with Dorney and one that they paid after a RA journo plagiarized without attribution to breaking news item I offered to them. My story is not unique, many of my colleagues suffered the same fate. RA/ABC religiously stole stories that were researched and written by local journalists online, without fair attribution most times.
So will I miss Radio Australias presence on the airwaves, actually no, as I won’t notice the difference, other than through the podcasts of Pacific Beat and Pulse. We don’t get ABC in Samoa regularly so I won’t notice that either.
But what I will miss more than anything is covering elections with Dorney, laughing as we chase down politicians, surprising him on his 60th at Aggies with a disgusting sponge cake and the happy Aggies band.
Here’s a toast to Dorney, Genoux, Paligaru and Hill, not all have lost their jobs, but they are the ones that matter, not RA, ABC or the cuts. Just the relationships, the honesty and the understanding of Pacific people that came with them.