Tonga: From suitcase radio to regular FM station

NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA (2 June 2010) – The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is pleased to announce the launching of Tonga’s first community FM radio station on Niuatoputapu, a remote island in northern Tonga. The historic launch took place on 25 May this year.

After the devastating tsunami late last year, SPC and the Commonwealth of Learning provided a “radio in a suitcase” to help villages rebuild their community. There are many issues involved in getting back to a normal life after such a disaster, and the radio station will play an important role in keeping people informed and involved.

Two representatives from SPC’s Regional Media Centre and the Pacific Rural Internet Connectivity System (PacRICS) Coordinator visited Niuatoputapu in May this year to install the radio station and train operators. The team worked in close partnership with Tonga’s Ministry of Information and Communication, the local government representative, and villagers.

Participants — which included a mix of men, women and youthful enthusiasm — learned how to design, plan and broadcast regular FM radio programs, and were also trained in interview techniques, editing and using the Internet to gather information.

SPC had previously provided a PacRICS to the island, and during the recovery from the tsunami, this proved invaluable as Telecom’s equipment was damaged.

The radio station is operated by a group of budding radio announcers, and a management committee has been established to oversee operations. There is also strong interest from government agencies on the island to deliver their messages.  As an example, the on-island nurse was very keen to inform the community about a recent outbreak of bacterial skin infections and prevention plans, including village inspections that would look at sanitation and rubbish disposal.

Music is in high demand, and a large selection of Tongan and other music was provided, compliments of Radio Tonga Broadcasting Corporation and FM 88.1 in Nuku’alofa. On the first night of operation, over 70 dedications were phoned in, showing strong listener support.

SPC’s Regional Media Centre will produce a special edition to be featured on the ‘Pacific Way TV’ show and radio monthly reports, highlighting the island’s recovery from the tsunami and coverage of the FM radio station.

For more information, please contact:  

Ian Thomson, PacRICS and OLPC Coordinator, SPC, Noumea, New Caledonia. Tel: +687 26 01 44. Email:

Larry Thomas, Coordinator, Regional Media Centre, SPC, Suva. Fiji. Tel: +679 3379 301. Email:

Fe’ao Vakata, Ministry of Information and Communications, Nuku’alofa, Tonga. Email: