The word "communications" on this Web page refers to the three arms of the media present in Kiribati. These are Radio, Newspapers and the Cinema.
When the Radio Station in Tarawa began operating in 1952, transmission was limited to a total of one and one-half hours per day which was to be divided among English, Kiribati and Tuvaluan listeners. This necessitated the local language being confined mainly to news bulletins.
At the same time the quality of the transmission was very distorted, weak and played with technical problems which arose from time to time. This is not surprising as it was a mere two-kilowatt, locally installed transmitter having a limited broadcast coverage and operated on an experimental basis. The Kiribati announcers consequently were able to use only a few words of their own language during fill-ins between programmes and when reading the news bulletins for the Kiribati audience.
By 1966 as communication technology advanced in Kiribati, the hours of transmission were extended and the quality improved. The announcers for the trilingual station were able to express themselves more in their language adding more colour.
As a radio announcer during this period I found that I was allowed considerable creative input to my programme content. At the same time I was always responsive to the fact that my broadcast were trilingual and as such it was my responsibility to ensure that each of the English, I-Kiribati and Tuvaluan audiences were treated equally.
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Radio in Kiribati must accept some responsibility for the introduction of new words, phrases and slang into the Kiribati vocabulary. Indeed it was the broadcaster or announcer who brought these words to the public's attention. With continual repetition over the radio, listeners will gradually adopt the invented words and they become part of the daily language.
Following are some examples of invented words which are now heard in modern Kiribati speech.
The Kiribati Language Board has also influenced the promotion of new words. The media and the Board have worked together in this field towards standardisation of the Kiribati language. Indeed many of the new words and phrases learned by I-Kiribati from the radio were adopted from various programme directed specifically to a better understanding of the Kiribati language.
The traditional way of composing local songs has been programmed as well as the songs themselves. Local songs include chants which traditionally the Gods or Spirits, supplied the composer with the tune, the rhythm and the words of these songs. There are also romance or love songs and special songs for burials, weddings, birthdays, welcoming visitors, farewells and big celebrations such as Christmas and New Year. In addition there are also folk songs.
Kiribati composing is a masterpiece of art that can really touch listeners in their hearts. This is most noticeable when farewell songs are being played. Radio audience surveys have found that many people are affected by the slow and sad beat of this music coupled with the words of the song. Tears come to their eyes and the sound of silence will envelope the household or any other group gatherings for quite a while until the next song, a joyous one is played.
Most of the earlier songs catalogue in the Radio Kiribati Library were from the northern islands in Kiribati, predominantly from Maiana. The reason for this was that most of the local bands, choirs, composers and singers were from Maiana. In contrast, I-Kiribati in the southern islands were rich in religious music and to some extent in traditional dancing with a foreign flavour. Their dancing shows influences from Samoa and Tuvalu, because some of the early missionaries who preached the Christian faith in these islands were of the Samoan and other Polynesian races.
There is only one Government newspaper, a weekly, issued by the Broadcasting and Publication Authority (BPA) in Bairiki. It is known as Te Uekera, the local name for the "tree of knowledge" as described in a well known Kiribati legend. According to this legend, the famous tree grew in Buariki village in North Tarawa.
This newspaper comes out from the Government Printing Office in Bairiki every Friday afternoon. Because the newspaper and radio are twin productions of the Broadcast and Publication Authority (BPA) whatever has been broadcast on the radio is usually published in the newspaper. However, most people prefer the newspaper because they can read it again and again and they have the photographs for illustration.
The current news and items of cultural and traditional values are continually covered by the newspaper's reporters and photographers. Cameras flash to highlight dancers swinging to the rhythm of local music or to record some women at work making baskets for a feast. A young boy at the top of his coconut toddy tree may also be pictured, or a canoe builder putting the final touches to his newly completed craft.
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Cinema is one of the latest media format to reach Kiribati. Its cultural contents are dynamic and have gained more popularity than the radio or the newspaper. The first cinema enterprise to be established in Kiribati was the Maria Cinema in Betio in December 1951. It was jointly operated by Henry Schutz and Phillip Wilder both Kiribati businessmen.
Video tape is the latest innovation to reach Kiribati. It was first imported into the country in 1981. Television has not yet come to Kiribati but video tapes are gaining wider and wider acceptance. The Video Tape Unit, Nei Tabera Ni Kai produces a wide range of cultural video films including Kiribati culture in the form of the Independence celebrations and the annual Inter-Ministries Dancing and Singing competition following the Independence celebrations each year. Indeed Nei Tabera Ni Kai covers all aspects of Kiribati culture and events in Kiribati including the millennium celebrations.
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