On Monday the government announced PacificAus TV, a new $17.1 million initiative for Australian (commercial) television shows to be available free to Pacific nations Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru.
Amongst the titles from Seven, Nine and 10 will be Neighbours, Better Homes & Gardens, Totally Wild, Border Security, 60 Minutes, House Rules, Travel Guides, This Time Next Year, The Force, The Voice, MasterChef, 800 Words, Paramedics and Lego Masters.
But not everybody is enthused by the idea.
Jemima Garrett, co-convenor of the Australia Asia Pacific Media Initiative and former Pacific correspondent for the ABC, said, “Watching rich, white people renovate their homes will not ‘deepen the connection’ with the Pacific or overcome perceptions that Australia can be paternalistic. Nor will providing Border Security in a region in which visa access is a sore point.”
She suggested investment in public interest journalism and co-productions would be a better way of building relationships in the region.
Dan McGarry, the former media director at the Vanuatu Daily Post newspaper, had mixed feelings.
“Pacific islanders want news, they want weather updates, especially during cyclone season. But language and cultural differences make shows like Neighbours irrelevant to most islanders. Entertainment wasn’t what we asked for (except for The Voice – everyone loves that),” he wrote.
But others disagreed.
“The programs will greatly enrich the television content available to all Fijians,” said Stanley Simpson, Director Mai TV, Fiji. “We have received a great mix of drama, entertainment and educational programs that will both delight and inform our viewers on Mai TV. Sincere thanks to the Australian Government for the initiative.”