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Drop Digital TV Project fees, members of the public say

Members of the public have expressed support for the under siege local television stations, saying the Digital TV fees that the Office of the Regulator (O.O.T.R.) has put forward is too expensive.

The O.O.T.R. gave the television stations until last Friday (November 15) to sign up to their Digital TV platform, which would mean them agreeing to pay ST$23,473 per month in tariffs which would be levied on T.V. broadcasters commencing February 1, 2020 for 6 months ending July 31, 2020. 

But the local television stations, which are currently broadcasting on the analogue platform, disagree with the proposed fee and say it is too excessive and would drive them out of business. 

Last Friday – the day of the deadline – Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi convened a crisis meeting between the disputing parties.

The debate surrounding Samoa’s Digital TV Project, the OOTR and the local television stations has not been lost on members of the public.

For 39-year-old Ioane Tuitama from Taufusi, he only knows about the local TV stations that currently broadcast on the analogue system, and he does not know much about the Samoa Government’s digital TV project.

“I have free access to watch any programme provided by the local television station, and we all know that in our country we have rich families and poor families,” he said.

Asked if he knew about the Digital TV Project, Mr Tuitama said he knew nothing about the project.

Aleisa resident Faasavale Tiani expressed similar sentiments about the Digital TV Project, saying he had no idea what the project entailed, though he is worried the deadlock over the monthly fees could lead to the stations’ closure. 

“First the public will not watch any local news (tala fou), and second TV is like something that people watch to what’s happening around the world,” he said. “The amount they (O.O.T.R.) want is the amount that the television stations earn.”

Mr Tiani warned that the closure of the TV stations in Samoa could see employees lose their jobs, which would ultimately impact their families. 

Television stations currently on the air in the country provide free programming for their local viewers, he added.

While Lalomanu villager, Uga lino, fears his family will not be able to watch their favourite programmes if there is a shutdown. 

“Programmes like the Tala fou, Lali and other usual programmes that the public are used to, they will not be able to watch anymore,” she lamented.

Another villager from Afiomalu, 36-year-old Sana Siva, says she watches the programmes on all the local TV stations and the OOTR should reduce its tariff. 

Vaivase-uta resident, 52-year-old Moli Taulauniu echoed similar sentiments and added that the fees could lead to the demise of free programmes, such as live rugby games.

Tuifaleula Fa Leniu, who is a 60-year-old woman from Laulii, urged the OOTR to reduce its new fees and reminded the authorities of the love that ordinary Samoans have for their favourite television programmes.

“It has a big effect to the public because most events happening  the local TV stations are covering for people to know, and also kid’s programmes,” she said.

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