Since 2008, Australia through RAMSI has supported the Solomon Islands Media Strengthening Scheme (SOLMAS) to improve the reach and quality of Solomon Islands media.
A well functioning media is crucial to development by empowering and informing communities and helping to demand better governance and service delivery.
Almost two-thirds of the journalists in Solomon Islands are under 29 years of age, with only 20 per cent of journalists holding tertiary qualifications, and just half having completed secondary schooling.
All media organisations in Solomon Islands compete in a challenging and small advertising market where revenue is hard to attract and retain. Access to quality infrastructure and equipment is difficult because of high costs, and maintenance is hard in the country’s tropical climate.
Now in its third phase and managed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), SOLMAS has four focus activity areas, which are supported by a flexible support program:
1. Infrastructure, Equipment and Access – SOLMAS funds infrastructure upgrades such as repairing radio transmission towers, conducts local research and audience surveys and works with media organisations to utilise social media and new technologies and to link their work with the country’s development objectives.
2. Media Skills, Professionalism and Content – SOLMAS provides Train the Trainer courses for senior journalists in newsroom management and journalism skills, is establishing content management systems including archiving at the National Archive and promotes Communication for Development (C4D) approaches in partnership with non-government organisations (NGOs).
3. Business Environment and Sustainability – SOLMAS is working with the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) to improve management systems and conducts workshops for other media organisations on business skills and leadership.
4. Media Enabling Environment and Media Association Building – SOLMAS is assisting the Media Association of Solomon islands (MASI) Executive to revise its Constitution and Code of Conduct, provide training and awareness on the Code. SOLMAS is assisting the Solomon Islands College for Higher Education (SICHE) Media and Journalism School with visiting specialist lecturers and providing media awareness training for other stakeholders such as NGOs where possible.
5. Flexible Support Program - SOLMAS provides assistance to MASI members to improve their reach and quality for the people of Solomon Islands, including through C4D forums and training.
SOLMAS works with a variety of media in Solomon Islands, including commercial and community-based radio stations, newspapers, the national broadcaster, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation and the only national television station One TV.
Achievements so far
RAMSI’s assistance in strengthening the Solomon Islands media has recorded a number of key achievements since the program started in 2006. Some of these include:
- Major restoration of SIBC’s HF (short wave) transmission, which has now increased the audience potential of the national broadcaster to 95 per cent of the country’s population.
- Support to SICHE’s Media and Journalism Certificate Course, now in it its second intake.
- Provided Train the Trainer courses to 14 senior journalists and media professionals, which now provides a strong base for these people to deliver skills training to others.
- Assisted MASI to hold 13 political forums in the lead up to the 2010 National Election, and to coordinate with police and the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission.
- Conducted media awareness training for accountability programs, Director of Public Prosecutions, Law Reform Unit, Electoral Commission staff, other RAMSI Programs, and NGOs.
- In 2012-13, SOLMAS is helping develop a major content management (archive) system for mainstream media organisations and a permanent archive within the National Archive.