BY MALIA HILL – So, how often do you like to kick back and watch a little Pacific Network Internet television? Yeah, me neither.
But would you make more of an effort if you knew that they were getting nearly a million dollars from OHA for the creation of a “Hawaiian-themed internet television station and web portal”? It kinda makes you wonder what a cool million buys these days in the way of internet entertainment . . . aside from buckets of Farmville cash or enough “adult videos” to end up under permanent FBI surveillance, of course.
Curious as to what a Hawaiian internet TV station might look like, I checked out their website, and was confronted by . . . Puppies! Adorable ones! In a shopping cart! Also, canoeing wipe-outs and some footage of a party in Waikiki that didn’t seem interesting enough to click on.
In all honesty, it looked more like a creation of the Hawaii Tourism Authority than anything intended for Hawaii residents, much less Native Hawaiians. And if this were a private enterprise, that would be no big deal.
I mean, I would question their business plan, but we live in a country where people are entitled to waste their own money in whatever way they wish. And I would no more stop someone from starting a questionable business enterprise than from going to an Rob Schneider movie. (Ok, that’s not entirely true. I would probably at least try to urge them, out of basic human decency, to avoid the movie.)
But this is beside the point. Because we’re not talking about private enterprise here. We’re talking about money intended for the benefit of the Native Hawaiian people. And we’re talking about a quasi-governmental agency that hopes to have a big hand in the proposed Native Hawaiian Reorganization proposed by the Akaka Bill.
The crazy thing is that we have seen plenty of media enterprises aimed at speaking primarily to one minority group succeed (BET and Telemundo come to mind, but there are others too). But they succeed or fail in the marketplace by learning to speak to their audience and growing their audience in a profitable way. Who is the Pacific Network speaking to?
The lack of advertising on the website suggests that profitability at this point is determined only by the success of their grant proposals.
If you were (or are) Native Hawaiian, would you consider this an effective way of reaching out or fostering the Native Hawaiian community? Or is it just another OHA vanity grant that looks good on paper, but disappoints in reality?
Malia Hill is with the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. For more on transparency in granting, visit www.4hawaiiansonly.com