PAPE'ETE (Oceania Flash/Pacific Media Watch): French Polynesia’s 10-year-old Tahitipresse news agency is to be axed and closed down by the end of 2011, the local government has decided.
The agency had been founded in 2001, under a previous government led by pro-France politician Gaston Flosse.
The Agence Tahititienne de Presse (ATP or Tahitipresse) was then tasked by generating news content online about French Polynesia and its greater region, as well as metropolitan France, in both French and English languages.
The local government, currently headed by pro-independence President Oscar Temaru, has endorsed the decision to close down the agency, saying this was in line with commitments made with the French development bank Agence Française de Développement (AFD), in terms of cost-cutting prior to the approval of a loan of five billion French Pacific Francs (CFP, about US$56 million).
The conditions attached to the loan followed a report published earlier this year, after an investigation conducted by French experts into the economy of French Polynesia, and which also recommended the closure of other government or semi-government entities, including ATP.
Reaction of dismay
Since the decision to close the agency has been made public, there have been reactions of dismay.
Critics, including board member Maina Sage, said that an earlier announced consultation process had not taken place and that the decision came as a “fait accompli”.
However, the agency is reported to be considering several survival options, including partnerships with either the existing Tahiti Nui Television (TNTV, also created in the early 2000s) or partnerships with external and international media organisations, editor-in-chief Thibault Marais told Radio New Zealand International on Friday.
“No later than yesterday, at least two companies told us that they were interested and maybe we could talk about that as well”, Marais hinted.
Tahitipresse, created in January 2001, currently employs five staff, for whom no back-up plan has been announced by the local government.
Tahitipresse’s current operating budget was estimated to be equivalent to some US$840,000.
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