REMARKS AT ANNOUNCEMENT OF DIGITAL TELEVISION TRIAL AND DRAWING OF CHANNEL LOTTERY

The Honourable Attorney-General and Minister for Communications,
Honourable Ministers,
Representatives of the television and broadcast communications industries,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all,

Today I am proud to announce the latest breakthrough in broadcast communications in Fiji – the start of a large-scale public trial of digital television.

The vehicle is the Walesi platform – named after the original i’Taukei word for wireless. In fact when wireless radio first started broadcasting and because it was such an innovation, the producer for Radio Fiji One, which was the I’Taukei language station, was known as Ratu Walesi. Although today, of course, is about the implementation of a state of the art television service, another milestone for Fiji.

While other countries in the region may have digital TV, it has been set up by private companies. We are the first Pacific Island Government to invest in the infrastructure for digital television at a national level. Not only have we invested in the infrastructure through our State-owned company, Walesi Limited, but we have also invested in the latest compression technology, which I am told has the potential to return a better picture quality than what is seen in Australia. And this enhanced picture quality will be available to all Fijians.

On Monday the trial in the Suva-Nasinu corridor will commence, before the full service is officially launched for the rest of the country later in the year.

This is a trial period before we take the service national. So while those living in the Suva-Nasinu corridor will be able access the service from Monday, I ask those living in the rest of the country to be patient and we will soon bring digital television to you as well.
To access the digital television platform, you will need a set top box, which will be available from retailers for a maximum price of $99.95.

To ensure that all Fijians will have access to digital television, the Fijian Government has allocated two million dollars to provide low income households with a set top box for free. We are working with the Water Authority of Fiji, Fiji Electricity Authority and the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation to finalise this initiative, and the details will be revealed in the coming days.

Along with the better picture you receive – sharp, clear, digital quality – and also better sound, the other main benefit of digital TV will be more choice of channels. Two each for FBC and Fiji TV, along with the existing single channel for MaiTV, in better quality than the current analogue service.

And the reason why we are here today, is that we’ve decided – in the interests of transparency – to allocate the numbers of these channels for the trial service in full public view. So my next task is to pull the names out of the barrel to match the numbers. Two balls for FBC, two balls for Fiji TV and one ball for Mai TV.

So let’s do it. (The Prime Minister draws the lottery on the allocation of channel for each TV station – to view this, click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wK4jpt9DSM)

Ladies and Gentlemen, so there we have it – the new channel numbers for the trial period of the Walesi Digital Service ahead of the full rollout across Fiji at the end of the year.

If you’re in the Suva-Nasinu corridor, it’s just in time for the Olympics. But for those of you who can’t access the service, don’t worry, it isn’t going to make any difference to the medal count. And whether you’re watching in digital or analogue, it’s still going to be the most exciting Olympics ever for Fiji. And the sweetest of victories if we win gold.

Happy viewing. Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.