Corporate entry: Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation

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During the Second World War American Military Radio operated a 'Mosquito Network' (q.v.), but Martin Hadlow's research suggests that public broadcasting in the Solomon Islands really begun in 1923 when the Methodist Mission in the Western Solomons broadcast a concert. The first attempt at regular local broadcasting after the war began on 18 October 1947; Station VQJ2 transmitted each Sunday at 10:00 a.m. for half an hour from a leaf hut on the beach in Honiara. It used a rebuilt American war surplus transmitter operated by Wireless Officer R. F. Calvert and operated on the inter-island Teleradio (shortwave) network which had been used during the war. This transmitted with a power of 400 watts and was known as 'The Shoestring Network' (Calvert invented the term), and began a short weekly radio service primarily for planters, missionaries, and colonial officials, keeping them in touch with world news, copra prices and shipping schedules. In 1948, a grant of British aid money enabled the purchase of broadcasting equipment, but installation was delayed until 1949 when a new communications building was erected on Vavaea Ridge, Honiara. From 1949, Calvert was assisted by William (Bill) Bennett (q.v.), the Honiara postmaster, who became the head of the broadcasting section in 1970 and retired in 1975 after thirty years of broadcasting. In 1950, two hundred 'saucepan' wireless receivers were ordered to extend the listening audience to Solomon Islanders in nearby villages, and these arrived the next year. (NS 31 Jan. 1969; AR 1949-1950; SND 4 Apr. 1975) In 1969, another six hundred radios were donated by the Foundation for the People of the South Pacific. (NS 15 Feb. 1969)


In 1951, a 400-watt war-surplus transmitter was obtained and converted. British Solomon Islands Broadcasting Services (SIBS, now Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation) began operations on 23 September 1952 with a medium wave transmission on 400-watt Station VQO, each night between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. on a frequency of 1030 kilocycles (kHz). On Wednesday evenings there was a ninety-minute programme for Solomon Islanders. (AR 1953-1954, 43) Reception varied but was usually good for about 160 kilometres. The first broadcast lasted for two hours and included a message from the High Commissioner, a history of the station, musical numbers by a Honiara string band led by Fred Kona, and music from the stage show South Pacific. The first staff, all volunteers, were Ron Calvert, Bill Bennett, Kay Poole, and, as Programme Director, Colin Allan, at that time the Assistant Secretary to government. The first BBC transcriptions were received in 1954 and in the same year local music that G. F. Milner of the London School of Oriental and African Studies had recorded in 1950 began to be broadcast. In October 1955, an experimental shortwave service was added-Station VQ02-which broadcast on Sunday mornings. BSIBS also purchased a tape recorder to record more indigenous music. Solomon Dakei, Fred Osifelo and Silas Sitai (all q.v.) were members of the board, which first met on 12 November 1958. On 5 January 1959 new studios were opened with medium and shortwave transmitters, replacing the old studios on Vavaya Ridge.


A permanent Broadcasting Advisory Committee was established in 1959 to advise on policy. It was reconstituted in 1970 and advised the Governing Council (q.v.). The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Commission became an associate member of the Asian Broadcasting Union, which had members throughout Asia and the Pacific, and the Commission arranged programme exchanges, staff training and technical liaison. The BSIBS was also a member of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Conference. The Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) was officially opened on 5 January 1959 and until the end of 1964 operated under the Colonial Development and Welfare scheme, after which the Protectorate Government met recurrent expenditure. (AR 1963-1964, 73)


In 1961, short commercial advertisements were included, and in 1965 the still-popular Service Messages were initiated as a way to broadcast essential information to individuals or families on behalf of government departments or private individuals. Between 1968 and 1970, 1,400 of these messages were broadcast annually, (AR 1970, 85) and by 1973 the rate was two thousand per year. Service Messages had become integral to the communications system; throughout the Protectorate they delivered messages and contacts for people with no other means of speedy communication. Deaths, marriages, money transfers, family matters and staff and private transport movements became everyday knowledge throughout the islands. In villages the few radios were always turned on for Service Messages and the news in Solomon Islands Pijin, even if used at no other time. The personal nature of Service Messages helped to create the modern nation; they helped everyone in the Protectorate begin to feel part of one extended family since all knew quite intimate details of families and individuals throughout the islands.


Also in 1965, evening programmes were extended and in November the first live broadcast occurred when a Honiara versus Auki rugby match was transmitted from Auki. SIBC also began to record local performers such as Peter Lui's band for local broadcast and for broadcast in Papua New Guinea. In 1967, a survey was completed of 314 Honiara listeners. About half listened to the radio every day and the favourite programmes were those in Solomons Pijin: the local news and shipping movements and the world news summary, as well as Dr Gideon Zoleveke's (q.v.) 'Good Health Talks'. A survey of 1,728 listeners the next year found that most tuned in between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m., and 6:00 and 8:00 p.m.


During the 1960s, radio listening became part of village life in the Solomon Islands. Good reception was available in most areas early in the morning and in the evenings, and there were even listeners in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), Papua New Guinea and the Gilbert (Kiribati) and Ellice Islands (Tuvalu). Whereas 280 radios were imported in 1962, by 1968 the number had grown to 2,200. (AR 1968, 1) Broadcasting also increased from 1,400 total hours in 1966 to 3,400 hours in 1968. A 1969 grant from the British Government enabled installation of two new transmitters near Henderson International Airport and expansion of other facilities.


The buildings at Rove were expanded in 1970, by which time weekly broadcast time had increased from 24 hours in 1965 to 83.5. Overseas news was provided each day by two relays of the BBC World Service and three of ABC bulletins, and there was also a daily news summary in Solomons Pijin. Regular programmes covered a range of subjects, including school and adult education and special broadcasts concerning women, young people and farming. In 1970, Governing Council proceedings were recorded and excerpts from them were used in special reports. About this time the SIBC also began publishing its own magazine, Preview, six times each year, containing information and publicity about programmes, editorial opinions and advertising. It circulated about two thousand copies. (AR 1970, 85)


Two years later, the government's broadcasting and information departments were joined with the library and museum into one department. The SIBS provided fifty-seven hours of programming, together with fourteen hours of schools broadcasts over ten weeks in each school term. From 1973, a new format was introduced, with ten hours a week of local and relayed news including one hour of Solomons Pijin news, 7.5 hours of locally produced features, two of religious broadcasts, nineteen of music requests and eighteen of music and plays. This increased the time allotted to requested music (both traditional and modern local) by fourteen hours-these were the most popular programmes. Strategic placement of these request programmes attracted larger audiences to adult education programmes in public health, agricultural extension and political education. Broadcasting came in batches: Monday through Friday from 6:00-8:00 a.m., 12:15-1:30 p.m. and 6:00-10.15 p.m.; Saturdays from 6:00 -10:00 a.m., 12:15-2:00 p.m. and 6:00-10:15 p.m.; and Sundays 12:15-1:15 p.m. and 6:00-10:15 p.m. Proceedings of the Governing Council and later the Legislative Council (q.v.) were covered in special programmes by Information Services reporters, in both Pijin and English, which, like the Service Messages, helped to create a total Solomons community. In the early 1970s, advertising netted the SIBC around $18,000 each year. There was no licence fee required and there were an estimated 7,800 radio sets in the Solomons, reaching a listening audience of eighty thousand in rural areas and twelve thousand in urban areas, out of a 1974 population of around 178,940. (AR 1974, 108-109)


When Bill Bennett retired in June 1975 he was replaced by R. J. (Dick) Hoskins, who had worked in Zambia, Kenya, England, Australia and Papua New Guinea. Hoskins resigned in October 1977, he said because the government was interfering through the Chief Minister's Office. (STT 5 Oct. 1977, 23 Nov. 1977) All-day programming (6:00 a.m.-10:30 p.m.) also started in 1975 and in that year Chief Minister Mamaloni laid the groundwork for what would be renamed the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) to become a statutory body. This occurred on 1 January 1977 under legislation introduced by Chief Minister Kenilorea. Both Mamaloni and Kenilorea realised the importance of providing the nation with an independent, high-quality SIBC. SIBC remains the dominant radio network today. Prime Minister Kenilorea obtained further funding from the Australian Government, which allowed construction of the Rove studio complex that opened in 1982. (PIM June 1952, Feb. 1956; NS 17 Nov. 1955, 28 Feb. 1958, 3 Aug. 1958, 30 Aug. 1958, Nov. 1958, May 1961, 14 Feb. 1965, 15 Nov. 1965, 21 Oct. 1966, 7 Aug. 1967, 31 Jan. 1969; J. Tedder 1973; SND 26 Sept. 1975)

Related Concepts

Published resources

Journals

  • Pacific Islands Monthly. Details
  • Solomons News Drum, 1974-1982. Details
  • Solomon Toktok, 1977-1992. Details
  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details

Journal Articles

  • Tedder, James L.O., 'Solomon Islands Information and Broadcasting Services--the Broadcasting Section', South Pacific Bulletin, vol. 23, no. 4, 1973, pp. 27-32. Details

Reports

  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details

Images

Title
SIBC Schools Broadcast Officer, 1960s
Type
Image
Date
1960s
Source
SIG

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