Radio Bougainville was the eighth broadcasting station built by the Australian Administration in Papua New Guinea and was launched on 20 April 1968 following some weeks of testing.
The station, which later became part of the National Broadcasting Corporation, programmed news, music and information for its listeners.
It aimed to inform the people of activities the government was undertaking and was an important source of information for people across the region.
The station was officially opened by Assistant Administrator Les Johnson, who later became the last Australian Administrator of Papua New Guinea before independence.
Keith Jackson, station manager at Radio Bougainville from 1970 to 1973, says perceptions of the station by the local people changed greatly during his time there.
“Bougainvilleans are great people and even back then were very tuned in to current affairs,” Jackson said.
“Initially the people around Kieta wouldn’t let their young people join the radio station, because it was seen, and rightly so, as a propaganda machine for the Administration.
“We started to take their views into account and broadcast programs and news that provided a balanced view of what was going on.
“Later we successfully recruited announcing staff from central Bougainville – I remember that Perpetua (Pepi) Tanaku was the first to join the station and she was a very popular personality.”
The station increased its broadcasting hours greatly, diversified its programming, sent recording patrols into the bush and saw its audience growing rapidly.
“We opened the station up to let people air their views and the response was overwhelming,” Jackson said.
“The news was straight down the middle, but our current affairs and audience participation programs offered a variety of views.
“On one program, Kibung bilong wirelesss, we would use material from cassette tapes people would send us as well as broadcasting their letters.
“At one point we were getting over 1,000 letters a month from listeners, often on political and social issues.”
One of the announcers who worked at Radio Bougainville at that time, Sam Bena (pictured, top left) is still on air as a member of the team at New Dawn FM. He has been involved in broadcasting as an announcer for more than 45 years.
Radio Bougainville initially broadcast for 21 hour a week, which within three years had increased to 81 hours a week.
The station provided features on education, council news, health, agriculture and political education. Through Toktok Save vital local information was provided such as weather forecasts, copra and cocoa prices, land for lease and information that people wanted to communicate with each other.
Music was also an important part of the Radio Bougainville’s content and programs included Bougainville traditional music, string bands, hymn & choral requests, listeners’ requests, South Seas music, march with the band, latest releases and plenty of country music.