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Dear Editor:

Although the public was informed way in advance on radio, on Channel 11 cable and on the air and even in your newspaper, when my previous letter was printed, my phone has been ringing constantly with dissatisfied viewers because the SamoaFrance game was not on cable.

It was only due to the good support I got from my advertisers that I managed to air the game at all, on my third digital  channel. All the sponsors understood the situation and declined to pull their ads. Everyone who views Channel 11 over the air could see the game. We thank our advertisers for  that understanding and each will be given a free DVD of the game.

This is what happened.

FijiTV would not allow my normal cable carriage. After a barrage of e:mails asking for a reason, I sent an article in the Samoan Observer about Blue Sky setting up an ITV service in Apia and it was presumed by FijiTV that my channel would be one of the channels offered. As I had heard nothing about it, I contacted Blue Sky. Blue Sky responded to me and to FijiTV that they were only offering television channels for which they had rights in Apia and that Channel 11 was not one of them.

In spite of that, FijiTV would not relent and came back with—and I quote, ".... we’re not comfortable with the idea and can no longer ignore the fact that Blue Sky is also another pay service operator that’s a direct competitor to Sky Pacific, hitching a free ride on our expense..."

 I advised FijiTV that Sky Pacific and Blue Sky were not competitors here because people subscribe to Blue Sky because they have twice as many channels and to Sky Pacific when Blue Sky Moana does not reach them. I also offered to pay for the cable carriage rights for Blue Sky.

As that offer was ignored I wrote a 3 page letter to their CEO, Mr. Arun Patel appealing FijiTV's policy. I have no idea if that letter was forwarded to him or not as I have received no response. When I received no response I sent a copy of that letter to all 15 persons on my FijiTV e:mail list, hoping someone would care about the American Samoa cable viewers and have the restrictive policy changed. I was hoping for a positive result right up to game time. Although I did have an agreement with KVZK-TV that they would re-transmit my signal, I could not give it to them because all their channels are carried by cable.

Now, what can I do to prevent similar outcomes in the future?  So far I have asked several rights holder not to sell American Samoa rights to FijiTV without giving me a chance to bid first. I am also trying hard to make a coalition of other Pacific broadcasters to bid on Pacific rights, including FijiTV's rights, so we can give them some of their own medicine. How can you help?  By supporting channel 11, thick or thin!

Bill Hyman
Channel 11