Tuvalu Meteorology Service. Photo by David Arfon Jones

Tuvalu Meteorology Service. Photo by David Arfon Jones

Tuvalu comprises three reef islands and six atolls in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. It is physically the fourth smallest country in the world and has the third smallest population.

A Spanish explorer sighted the islands in the 16th century before an English explorer named the area the Ellice Islands in the 19th century. English missionaries, traders and whalers settled on the islands during the 19th century. The islands were administered as a British protectorate between 1892 and 1916 and as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony from 1916 until 1974.

A self-determination referendum was held in 1974 and the separate British colonies of Tuvalu and Kiribati were formed. Tuvalu became independent within the Commonwealth in 1978.

Tuvala is a parliamentary democracy and part of the Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as the country’s head of state. As the Queen of Tuvala she is represented in-country by her appointed Governor General.

The parliament of Tuvala has 15 members – elected every four years – who choose the Prime Minister. Each island also has its own high-chief and several sub-chiefs who form an island council of elders.

Public sector workers make up around 65 percent of the formal workforce while around 15 percent work on foreign merchant ships. The remainder are involved in traditional subsistence agriculture and fishing. The economy also receives funding from the Tuvalu Trust Fund formed by the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Media and Communication Landscape

The media and communication environment in Tuvalu faces many challenges based on the country’s population, size and the distances between islands. Find out more in the PACMAS State of Media and Communication Report 2013: Tuvalu.

Policy and Legislation
• The Constitution protects freedom of expression, but there are no explicit references to freedom of media.
• Freedom of media was specifically included in the Tuvalu Media Corporation Act of 1993, but since being de-corporatised in 2008, the Tuvalu Media Department is no longer separated from the government.
• The Public Order Act was used in 2011 to ban political meetings for a short time.
• There is no market competition in telecommunications, and no liberalisation legislation in place.

Media Systems
• Tuvalu has recently had upgrades to equipment funded by Japan, but technicians are worried about how they would cope with breakdowns after the one year warranty expires.
• Internet connections are unreliable and intermittent.
• Technicians are keen to be involved in support networks.
• Emergency plans are associated with tsunamis and cyclones; they do not have a communications section,so knowledge of communication procedures is informal.
• Disaster awareness is hampered to some extent by faith-based rejections of risks.

Capacity Building
• Few media professionals, including the technicians, have formal qualifications.
• Funding is a barrier to accessing regional and international training.
• There are no separate media organisations or associations in Tuvalu, and there is only one media outlet.
• The TMD is a member of PINA, although access to training and support remains problematic.

Content
• Central-periphery divides have an impact on the news and content included in mass media.
• Media coverage of climate change is low, and despite some faith-based rejections of risks, churches have become leading advocates of climate change issues.
• Face-to-face communication is preferred for disaster awareness.
• The TMD shows great enthusiasm for covering NCD issues in a variety of formats.

Any opinions represented in the PACMAS State of Media and Communication Report 2013: Tuvalu are those of the authors and research participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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