From Ashley Wickham, CEO SIBC
A number of print and radio outlets have published stories about SIBC’s difficulties in the past two weeks. In some cases, two stories have been conflated which has confused listeners.
On Tuesday, December 12 Solomon Power (SIEA) disconnected power at SIBC’s Rove Studio headquarters, believing SIBC was behind in its payments. This caused SIBC to run on a standby generator until the matter was resolved.
An accounting error was discovered, cheques were exchanged, and we returned to normal business operations on December 15. SIBC has since had no difficulty with connectivity to mains power supplied by Solomon Power.
Coincidentally, on December 15 the Board of Directors approved the implementation of the first phase of the SIBC Contingency Plan.
The plan was developed earlier in the year when SIBC feared the government cash-flow situation might deteriorate to the point it could not pay its bills and its contracted commitments.
The plan was devised so that SIBC would not be allowed to collapse for lack of funds but be strategically re-organised so that its essential service role of broadcasting National Disaster and Emergency warnings and public information was not disrupted.
The plan is that in the event of revenue levels at bank falling below a trigger threshold, the following cost-cutting measures would take place:
ACTION 1. The Medium Wave transmitter which serves mainly the central Solomons would be switched off. People throughout the country would still be able hear SIBC’s dual-frequency Short Wave transmitter. The MW transmitter was switched off shortly after December 15. Power for the FM 96.3 transmitter, which should serve the Florida group as well as areas in and around Honiara, was raised to 800 watts.
ACTION 2. Daily SW transmission hours will be reduced from 18 hours to 12 hours. This means the transmitter would be switched off during off-peak times. SIBC surveys in the past three years show that rural listeners, who make up about 80 percent of the population, prefer to listen in the early mornings and in the evenings. On current trends, since SIBC’s invoices have not been paid since December 1, management expects to implement Action 2 just after New Year’s Day.
ACTION 3. Transmitters will be powered for as long as possible by stand-by generators. This will be carried out simultaneously with Action 2.
ACTION 4. Merge FM and SW evening programme to reduce staff costs. This has already been actioned.
ACTION 5. SIBC’s subscription to an overseas music library providing new music each week will be reduced until further notice. The supply of new local songs for airplay is not a problem. The major demographic in this country are those between 15 and 40 years of age and new music from overseas is needed. It is planned to reduce subscription costs by 50 percent in the first quarter of 2018.
PHASE 2. STAFF REDUCTION. If after four weeks of Phase 1 there is no improvement, lay-offs will begin. This could begin at end of January 2018.
The rest of the Contingency Plan is yet to be announced but it has been approved by the Board of SIBC and government officials have been notified.
SIBC looks forward to government’s finances improving substantially in early 2018 so that SIBC can — with government support — resume normal operations and prepare to launch television and other projects in the new year.
We wish everybody a very happy and prosperous New Year.