Despite civil unrest and government restrictions on the media, two new radio stations have recently taken to the air in Honiara, capital of Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) has launched Wantok FM. Wantok (literally “one talk” in the Pidgin language, meaning “people who speak our language” or “our kin”) covers mainly the capital city but also reaches portions of nearby islands.
SIBC general manager Johnson Honimae said the station is designed to appeal to youth, and was built with support from the government of Taiwan.
The other newcomer is Paoa-FM (“Power FM” in Pidgin). The station is a joint venture between a local newspaper and Communications Fiji Ltd (CFL), which runs three radio stations in Fiji and two in Papua New Guinea.
It is expected that Paoa-FM will reach about two thirds of the 440,000 people in Solomon Islands.
“We were well advanced (in building Paoa-FM) when the ethnic situation in the Solomons blew up,” explained William Parkinson, managing director of CFL.
“Our attitude is to look at the long term,” he continued. “We have been through this type of situation before, with two military coups in Fiji and the various ups and downs of Papua New Guinea politics over the last five years. We have learned that, in the end, countries and markets don’t vanish – and we can be very successful.”
Also on the FM band in Solomon Islands is Z100, a small, privately-owned commercial station serving Honiara.
The state-owned SIBC operates the national AM service Radio Happy Isles, as well as two AM stations on distant islands.
* First published 13 October 1999 in the International Edition of Radio World