Office of Regulator stays mum, P.M. calls for common sense
The Office of the Regulator is remaining tight lipped on its next step given Friday is the deadline for an order it issued to all local TV Stations.
The order signed by the Regulator, Lefaoali'i Unutoa Auelua – Fonoti, which had also been filed and endorsed by the Supreme Court, instructed “all licensed Broadcasting Service Providers (T.V.)” to connect “to the Digital Platform no later than Friday 15th November 2019.”
The order threatened legal action against TV stations who are “non-compliance to the Order.”
Contacted for a comment, Acting Regulator, Venus Iosefa, declined.
“I apologise but we have no comment,” she said.
The Acting Regulator also declined to comment on claims that one church TV station has written to their office asking for their license to be revoked in light of the order.
“No comment and I have not queried if we have received it,” Ms. Iosefa said.
As of Thursday evening, the Owners of TV stations, representatives from the Samoa Digital Corporation Limited (S.D.C.L.) and officials from the Office of the Regulator, were to meet with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to discuss the matter.
Ahead of the meeting, however, Tuilaepa told the media that common sense needed to prevail. He used a Samoan saying, o le uta fetalai o le uta a le poto, o le taofi mamau o le uta lena a le vale saupau. It translates that a wise man is able to change and adapt their thinking whereas a fool holds on his/her stubborn thoughts.
“There is nothing that has no solution,” the Prime Minister said. “That is why we are meeting today to discuss a solution. It is best to meet halfway so there would be some negotiations but it doesn’t mean you have to remain firm on what you believe in.”
The order from the Regulator, issued last week, instructed that all TV stations must obey.
“Failure to comply with this Order shall result in the O.O.T.R. taking appropriate legal action by way of prosecution for non-compliance to the law and/or the revocation of broadcasters licence in accordance with section 27 and 66 of the Act.”
The Order will expire only if the Regulator revokes it or when a new Order is made with respect to the tariff.
The TV owners have recently expressed concerns over the instructions from the Regulator and their inability to meet the deadline and the required costs.
Managing Director of TV3, Maposua Corey Keil, said there are additional costs of about US$29,000 to buy a microwave link transmitter required to connect to the digital platform.
“Until we can sort out the costs, if we can pay for all of that (on top of the tariff), I don’t think we are able to meet the deadline,” said Maposua.
“It is like leading us to the cliff. Those monthly costs will add up and at some point we won’t be able to pay it and we will go broke and all of a sudden we will have to close down and put a lot of employees out of work.”
The Samoa Broadcasting Corporation Limited (S.B.C.L.) Chief Executive Officer, Galumalemana Faiesea Lei Sam, echoed the same concerns.
Galumalemana said the S.B.C.L. wanted to connect to Digital T.V., but they are asking for a price they can afford.
“All the Regulator is looking at is the benefit and interest of the Digital T.V. but our concerns have been ignored,” she said.
“We just want something that we can afford, a win-win solution but the Regulator has continued to threaten us with warnings to revoke our license.”
Meanwhile, Church T.V. stations that say they do not turn significant profits have not been spared the standard tariff and therefore the ongoing involving Digital T.V.
The General Secretary of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.), Rev. Vavatau Taufao, said the tariff is not affordable for the church's station: E.F.K.S. T.V.
“If E.F.K.S. continues with that amount then we need to submit a proposal in the next Fono Tele [General Assembly] in May 2020 for funds so our T.V. can survive,” he said. “And if the Fono Tele rejects then the best solution for E.F.K.S. .T.V. is closing down.”