samoa should say no to sale of 2ap

Staff at the national broadcaster, Samoa, may face the sack if they are privatised.
By now, acres of editorial space have been given to the controversial decision to adopt right hand drive in Samoa - right hand drive meaning in this case cars with steering wheels on the right side of the vehicle, driving on the left side of the road.
So far, however, just one story has appeared internationally on the possible sale of 2AP, the country's long serving national radio station.
Ever faithful Radio New Zealand quotes an independent MP, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, as calling on government to stop the sale.
The MP questions whether station services will be available at times of national crisis, like a cyclone.
"But the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, says the sale of the broadcaster has been in the pipeline for years and there is nothing to worry about as government will pay to get media access."
Listeners next door in the Cook Islands might disagree.
For years, for example, residents on the atoll of Pukapuka have tuned into 2ap not just because the language is closer to their own but because the signal from their supposed capital, Rarotonga, has been too weak to pick up.
That's because the station was privatised in the mid-1990's by an acting broadcasting minister and friend of the current owners, while the real broadcasting minister was out of the country. 
Among other things, like cutting news bulletins, the new owners dialed down the broadcast strength to save power, i.e. money.
This had tragic consequences for the northern atoll of Manihiki.
Fatally unaware of looming hysteria in Rarotonga over cyclone warnings of an approaching cyclone, 19 people died in Manihiki on the first day of the cyclone season, 1st November 1997.
Not everyone could be reached by phone, local Manihiki police did not have time to travel the large lagoon warning everyone, not everyone took the warnings seriously.
As well as surreptiously selling the station in the first place, Disaster manager Tepure Tapaitau added blood to his hands by badly bungling the rescue operation.
No commission of inquiry was ever held despite it being the worst loss of life in the country's history, and today Tapaitau sits, slightly less smug, as the Cook Islands High Commissioner in Wellington.
Back to Samoa.
Two large islands, with eight much smaller islets, are nowhere near as widely scattered as the Cook Islands, so concerns over strength of radio signal may not apply.
But in pushing for a sale now, after "years" of being in the pipeline, Samoa risks achieving corporate notions of privatisation just as the wheels seem to be coming off the globalisation juggernaut.
Forget New Zealand and its pathetically resourced public broadcasters, the model that Pacific Islands nations should be seeking to emulate, in our view, is that of the BBC.
Strongly funded at home, through a household tax, the BBC has weathered corporate cyclones of its own, including decades of calls for privatisation from cash crazy-captains of industry, and, proudly survived, a bit battered, but alive.
Today BBC World service online attracts an astonishing amount of world attention, and respect, for its continued efforts at independent journalism.
Website visitors are counted in the millions each month.
Instead of listening to penny pinching entrepreneurs, the government of Samoa should seek to strengthen its public radio, under independent authority, preferably a community-wide board of directors from all sectors.
Given credible, independent information as an "output" there is no reason why 2ap and associated news online should not serve as a proud portal to the world, more than paying for itself, indirectly, through increased tourism.
And, it will save lives too. Perhaps by reminding people, frequently, to drive on the other side of the road.