Unpaid debt silences Vanuatu public broadcaster

An aerial view of one of Vanuatu's islands Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Sixty-five of Vanuatu's islands are inhabited, and many people rely on public radio for information

Vanuatu's national broadcaster went off-air on Monday because of an unpaid utility bill, it's reported.

There was a "total blackout" on Radio Vanuatu and Television Blong Vanuatu, with people across the country unable to tune in, Radio New Zealand International reports.

State-owned VBTC, which runs both services, was cut off by its electricity provider last week after failing to settle its debt, according to the Pasifik News website. It had continued to operate using diesel-powered generators - but not for long. On Monday the fuel ran out, leaving both its TV and radio stations silent. The power was reportedly restored on Tuesday.

The website says VBTC has faced this problem before. The same thing happened last year after the company failed to cough up more than 12m vatu (£75,500; $107,000) in unpaid power bills.

Only last week the company's new chairman, Jonethy Jerety, vowed to provide nationwide radio coverage, after Vanuatu's prime minister criticised the service being provided to outlying islands. Communities rely on the broadcaster for essential information during cyclones or volcanic eruptions, which are not uncommon in a country located on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire.

Residents apparently missed seeing the opening of parliament, and football fans will be hoping that service is more reliable in the coming weeks - Pasifik notes that during the TV blackout nobody could watch the Euro 2016 tournament.

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