Vila Times

‘Dysfunctional’ VBTC to go through urgent reforms

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Prime Minister of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai, as Minister responsible for broadcasting and television, appointed new members of the Vanuatu Broadcasting & Television Corporation Board of Directors and also set-up a special Advisory Task Force to facilitate urgent reforms at VBTC, the Government announced.

The state of affairs at the national broadcaster was discussed at Council of Ministers (COM) meeting during which the Prime Minister secured COM’s endorsement to urgently stop any further degradation of VBTC. This COM decision is in support of achieving Government’s 100 Day Plan.

“VBTC continues to be an underperforming State Owned Enterprise (SOE) and my Government will not continue to bankroll a dysfunctional entity that continues to have serious governance issues and expose Government to insurmountable liabilities.

“My Government and the entire nation are fully aware of challenges faced by VBTC to provide an efficient and reliable national broadcasting service for Vanuatu as stipulated under the Broadcasting Act”.

Prime Minister expressed serious concerns on a range of matters at VBTC including the potential financial liability exposure to the nation, the current redundancy program, governance issues, conflict of interest, the digital television joint venture Vanuamadia, an unhappy workforce and poor transmission coverage of radio and television.

“If private radio stations in Vanuatu can deliver a broadcasting signal and interactive programmes to listeners without any government funding, why is it that VBTC has for the past decades continued to slide backwards and not progress?”

“There has been so much goodwill and support given to VBTC over the decades by Vanuatu’s development partners like Australia, New Zealand, China, France and others and yet VBTC is today worse off than it’s ever been.

“We all should share the blame for VBTC’s poor performance but this is not the time to blame anyone. That’s why I’ve taken the decision to instruct changes at this SOE and put in place measures to urgently reform VBTC,” the Prime Minister remarked.

As part of the Government’s 100-Day plan (Prime Minister’s Office Activity 17), and COM decision 137/2016, the Prime Minister commissioned a Comprehensive Review of VBTC which is in the final stages of compiling its report. This Review is being carried out by an independent local consulting firm.

The directive to the new board and the Advisory Task Force is to urgently take all relevant measures to reform VBTC including the appointment of a skeleton team to maintain an interim broadcasting service; arrest any further financial degradation of VBTC; and, oversee the implementation of recommendations endorsed by COM emanating from the current review exercise of VBTC.