News 10 May 2018
There are few industries as competitive and cut-throat as media, but the Pacific Cooperation Broadcasting Limited's Pasifika TV – in partnership with MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade) has seen New Zealand broadcasters unite as never before to serve the Pacific.
CEO Natasha Meleisea recalls being approached by her former Mediaworks boss Brent Impey (now chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Union) three years ago.
“When Brent said that he had a great project for me, I said ‘Not if it means going back to radio, I’ve done my time there’,” she recalls, with a laugh.
The project was Pasifika TV, which is a broadcasting service that primarily delivers a contribution feed of New Zealand originated content to the Pacific. Its aim is to support Pacific free-to-air broadcasters through the provision of programmes, bespoke training and broadcast equipment throughout the region.
With her radio experience, the transition to television broadcasting was relatively smooth for Natasha.
“A lot of the processes with TV and radio are similar, but I learnt a lot of new things and being involved at the start from ground up gave me a better understanding of the mechanics and operational side.”
The Pasifika TV project was established to serve people throughout the Pacific region. It is made possible with goodwill and collaboration from production houses, rights holders and a consortium of mainstream broadcasters; TVNZ, MediaWorks (TV3), Sky TV and Maori Television, who have shown that rival broadcasters can work together for a good cause.
From the villages of Matautu-uta, Apia and Poutasi, Falealili in Samoa, Natasha says Pasifika TV is a rewarding experience in many ways, particularly in mentoring, training and working alongside those from the region to feed coverage of this year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast to 11 Pacific countries.
When TVNZ granted the sub-licence for the Games coverage rights for the region to Pasifika TV, Natasha was ecstatic. It enabled her to bring four Pacific broadcasters to Auckland to become part of the TVNZ team delivering the Games. They volunteered to work on their rostered days off and revelled in the experience.
“They were here and cheering on their country’s athletes, but being based in Auckland, they saw and embraced the bigger picture as being here for the Pacific, as one. They worked so hard to ensure we delivered a specifically Pacific Commonwealth Games broadcast, and that all medal moments were captured either live or on the daily highlights show. It was pretty special and a proud moment in our history.”
Her greatest satisfaction is seeing the capacity and capability being built within the media industry in our region.
“We have an annual media exchange programme with around eight people a year who are placed among the broadcasters in New Zealand, such as TVNZ, Sky TV, Maori TV, Mediaworks and Radio New Zealand. They’re here for two weeks and it’s quite intense. Though not always as high pressured as the Commonwealth Games media exchange!”
Media training usually has a strong focus on journalism, but Natasha saw a glaring need to expand their skill-base.
“Across the region in the smaller countries, there’s often only one person who manages the technical side of operations. In the past if that person was unavailable, it could lead to some major broadcast issues,” she says.
“We have worked on building capacity in that particular skillset, so there is a Plan B. In the last couple of years, we’ve provided camera kits, testing equipment and onsite training to Pacific broadcasters. Training in the region has worked really well and the demand is certainly increasing.”
Another demand includes the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. While Natasha knows there has been substantial investment in connectivity for the region, the benefits from the contribution are apparent.
“One of the most popular shows in the region is the TV One News and it’s been that way for a long time,” she says.
“I can see room for expansion to strengthen our links. There’s so much we can do, but there are associated costs and we need to keep upskilling people so we can sustain it. Success for us is being wanted rather than needed."