The prime minister, Sato Kilman, alleges the radio station Capital FM107 has failed to renew its broadcasting licence since 2010 and committed several other breaches of the broadcasting act relating to poor journalism standards.
The station has been ordered to close, but it refuses to stop broadcasting.
The CEO of Group 107, Arthur Knight, says comments about the station by a government spokesman are completely false.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: CEO of Group 107, Arthur Knight
KNIGHT: FM107 is confirming in relation to the report that was run by ABC that all licenses to operate are up-to-date and looked at annually, and FM107 has been operating according.
Some comments that was made by the private secretary ah, of the Prime Minister yesterday on ABC. We hold that comments such as breaking the nation's laws is totally defamatory, because FM107 is a national product. It is the first private radio station in Vanuatu and there are issues with licensing in terms of impartiality, in terms of licensing, which, of course, we'd like to raise with the Prime Minister to ensure that the system works better.
HILL: The government is claiming you don't have a license and you haven't paid for licences for a couple of years. Are you saying in fact you are up to date with your licences and the government's just got it wrong?
KNIGHT: All operating licences are up-to-date as I mentioned earlier and looked at annually and FM107 has been operating accordingly since the business was bought off its previous management in 2009.
HILL: What about the whole broadcasting standard issue. The government claims that there's a lot of one-sided stuff on FM107 and they've specifically made the accusation on your talkback show, things have got so out of hand, that people have actually been issuing death threats and no-one's actually told people how you can't say that on the radio?
KNIGHT: We hold those comments defamatory, because talkback show has been promoted in Vanuatu for the last couple of years in our Vanuatu Today program and the majority of the public have been educated on how to respond within the parameters of talkback shows. So we don't remember any incidents where there have been any threats made on air as being....?
HILL: Well, in his letter to you, the Prime Minister says you can't deny it, because the whole country heard it. He's quite strong that this actually happened. He wouldn't put it on paper if he didn't think it was true?
KNIGHT: Well, that'll be for them to prove. I mean at the end of the day, we hold that everything that's been going on air has not been, any of the topics that have been discussed on air has not led to any extreme undesired end, such as a protest, or strike or civil claim or community unrest or any other detriment.
I think what they've also failed to also mention is the positive contribution that FM107 has done for the media industry in Vanuatu. I mean being the first private radio station with no assistance whatsoever from government that enjoys some 45 million vatu worth of grant every year, plus being the public broadcaster, direct access to donor aid, FM107 has just been pulled out of bankruptcy by its previous management and has now gotten to a stage where we're trying to have it run as an internationally-competitive radio station and it's the first one to run 24 hours live without any sort of assistance and it's the only one that seems to be broadcasting Vanuatu on the worldwide web to over 165 countries. So if more than anything, it's a positive example where radio should be going in our general development of the radio industry in Vanuatu.
HILL: Well, if things are going as well as you say, and if you say that your licences are all up-to-date and there's no real problems with the broadcasting standards, why then do you think the government is taking such a firm stance and apparently trying to shut you down? What is their motivation for this?
KNIGHT: Well, I think it'll be a question for them to best answer.
HILL: Well, I'm asking you what you think?
KNIGHT: I think it's more than meets the eye. There have been issues that have been raised by government earlier on prior to the elections. So the start of the year, it's a bit of pressure that's been put on. Now there's a lot of claims that the private secretary has made as to FM107 slanting programs to incitement, being a political station when we're not. We are here as a station for the public to promote information news and entertainment with the public. They haven't really specified what particular issue they're referring to. Because in our system, and kind of ethics at work, all journalists have been trained as they have been from school and also in the workplace to always double check sources before anything has been released on air, to ensure that all stories that are being carried out are balanced.