ABU to help broadcasters overcome Tsunami losses

MUMBAI: The television fraternity has not been spared the wrath of the Tsunami natural disaster.

The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) has announced that more than 30 employees of its members are missing and feared dead, while many broadcasting facilities have been damaged and transmissions disrupted.

To help in the restoration of the affected facilities the ABU has asked its member broadcasters in the region to assist those broadcasters who have been afffected by the tsunami tragedy. The ABU has asked member broadcasters and suppliers of technical equipment to donate radio sets and broadcast equipment for affected areas in Sri Lanka, Aceh and Maldives.

On its part the ABU is assisting in coordinating a project initiated by Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) to restore broadcast operations in some of the stricken countries. This will be done by establishing temporary transmission facilities and by donating portable radios with fresh batteries to enable people made homeless in Aceh and other devastated regions to receive news of the relief efforts that are being mounted.

CRA CEO Joan Warner said that the company is speaking to the Australian Government as far as making arrangements for assistance through Ausaid are concerned . She added that CRA would also make available 12 volunteer engineers for the setting up of transmission facilities in disaster areas.

One of the broadcasters that has been affected is Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI). It has managed to set up temporary studio and AM and FM transmission facilities in Banda Aceh which are now operational. In addition to Emergency broadcast equipment, it needs 5,000 portable AM and FM radio receivers for the stricken population. While Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC)?s transmission facilities were not significantly affected by the Tsunami, the Sri Lankan broadcaster urgently requires FM radio receivers for the survivors.

On the other hand, Radio Television Maldives has reportedly lost much of its equipment and seeks low power TV transmitters and portable camera-recording equipment to enable it to provide coverage of the disaster. Also needed are MW battery-powered radio sets for eight temporary shelters each housing some 500 to 3,000 people.

Commercial Radio Australia is in the process of arranging for 50,000 AM/FM radios and six transmitters to be sent to affected areas in the course of the next 4-5 weeks including 5,000 radio units which will be ready for shipping to Indonesia by next week.

Meanwhile on the programming front BBC World has announced a special episode of Question Time India that will look at how Tsunami has affected the country. This will air tonight 7 January at 10 pm.

The topic, 'Has India managed relief operations effectively and how prepared has it been to act in order to prevent disease from spreading?' will be discussed. The government's decision to deny foreign aid is also discussed, as well as the response from the international community to the disaster in the region.

The panelists will include Jairam Ramesh who is a member of the National Advisory Council and Rajya Sabha MP. A former Minister for urban and parliamentary affairs, from the BJP SS Ahluwalia, and Hindustan Times' editorial director Vir Sanghvi will also take part.

Responding to a question on whether India could have handled the Tsunami disaster better in terms of warning people in advance and managing the relief work more efficiently, Ramesh says,"I think the response of the government, and the civil society, has been truly magnificent. But this does not mean that we shouldn't put the warning system in place. We should learn appropriate lessons, this was an unprecedented tragedy for which we were not prepared. The basic point remains that this calls for a major revamp of our monitoring system involving the oceanography infrastructure, the met infrastructure."

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