The Pacific Region

The Pacific region has a rich and complex media and communication environment. Some of the largest media industries are present in Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga and many media industries have undergone privatisation over the last decade. Overall radio remains an extremely important broadcast media platform for communication across vast distances and audiences, with most radio consumption occurring on public transport and in other communal spaces. Television retains its importance (especially in urban areas) but the practice of television viewing and infrastructure of television continues to change. For example, there is a growing trend towards watching television via satellite and cable, a shift that often provides greater access to foreign content but lesser access to local content. Many Pacific countries are also responding to the global switch from analogue to digital, although cost and logistics are mentioned as barriers to full transition. The availability of DVD players and recordable DVDs has also transformed the experience of television viewing. Finally, many newspapers and newsletters are published, and have taken on a new life as they are uploaded and shared online to be read by members of the various Pacific diasporas.

Access to media is widening, particularly in Melanesia where individuals in the community and community media are training to use radio, internet and mobile. The access to and diversity of media sources in the Pacific is affected by geography.

While radio remains important, more recent studies find information and communications technologies (ICTs) are becoming more relevant, and indeed are underutilised for development despite presenting significant potential.

The most ubiquitous of these technologies is the mobile phone; according to International Telecommunication Union statistics, around 60 per cent of Pacific Islanders in 2012 had access to a mobile, compared to just 10 per cent in 2006. Mobile phones are now used for a variety of services ranging from voice communication and SMS (text) to accessing the internet and social media. In a number of Pacific countries (e.g. Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Tonga), mobiles are being used for banking tasks such as payments and the circulation of transnational remittances.

While we have yet to understand the full impact and influence of mobile phones in the lives of Pacific Islanders, early evidence suggests that the new mobile infrastructure in parts of the region is addressing some of the barriers – remoteness, financial cost and availability – that have to date hindered the circulation of information and communication.

Yet, as the media and communication environment becomes more complex, questions remain about the appropriateness of ICTs for specific purposes, such as for use during emergencies and disasters. The ability of broadcasters and technicians to keep up-to-date with the latest equipment and software is sometimes an issue. There is also a greater need for understanding the possibilities of integrating ICTs like mobile phones into media and communication plans for disaster response technologies like broadcast radio.

Despite the growth in mobile phones and internet access, and the convergence of broadcast and ICTs, barriers to the use of and participation in local, national and transnational media persists.

Find out more in the PACMAS State of Media and Communication Report: Regional

Any opinions represented in the PACMAS State of Media and Communication Report: Regional are those of the authors and research participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.