As EMTV staff gathered on a July morning this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the company, Augustine Kili was invited to make a short speech.
A man of a few words, Augustine recounted the years past. He pointed to an apartment door at the top floor of Garden City where the small party was being held.
“We started broadcasting there,” he said into the microphone and he went on to talk about what life was like in the early days of television in Papua New Guinea.
“EMTV is 30 years old but the industry is older.”
Augustine Kili is the oldest serving staff at EMTV. The younger brother, of radio personality, the late Justin Kili, he started working even before the company, in its current form, began broadcasting programs.
“Back then it used to be called community television,” he said. “We used to produce programs and screen them at various locations around Port Moresby.
“We didn’t know what we were getting into. It was all new to us. We had no experience.”
Augustine’s 30-year journey began after he left Hutjena High School in Bougainville. As a village misfit, his elders felt it was better if he was sent off to Port Moresby to be recruited into the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.
“They reckoned it would instill some discipline and order in me.”
The teenage Augustine arrived in Port Moresby where older brother, Justin Kili or JK already had a long running career as a radio announcer. After a few days, he went to Goldie Army Training Depot outside of Port Moresby where he was expected to sign up for training.
“I stood at Goldie and I saw a soldier with his rifle held over his head with both hands. He was running around in a circle.
“And I asked why he was doing that and they said he was being punished for something.
“I didn’t like it…because I saw myself doing the same thing. If I joined the army, I would be punished like him.”
Augustine went back home to Port Moresby and had to make up an excuse as to why he didn’t join the army.
“Big bro, JK, told everyone that if I didn’t want to join that I had to be left alone to decide.”
Much later, the founder of the future EMTV, Alun Beck, came to JK looking for people to work on a project. Augustine was recruited and began working on a community television project that would eventually grow into a company.
Broadcast television technology in the 1980s was cumbersome and expensive. Much of the equipment was secondhand; imported from Australia.
By1986, another TV station, NTN was already in operation. What was then the senior management of the fledgling company made the decision to pursue the important decision of starting up a second station with very little equipment and experience.
“I was 18 at the time and we had no idea what we were doing and how we were going to move from there on.”
Things were kept under wraps while the groundwork for another TV station was done. A studio was set up in the top floor apartments of Garden City in Port Moresby where the current EMTV Head Office still is.
“Then in July 1987 we switched on the signal. I was jittery. The boss was watching over us.”
Since 1987, EMTV has gone through numerous changes.
Augustine saw the evolution of technology from large rolls of tape to smaller BETA tapes. In the 1990s, digital technology was introduced slowly at first. Then by the later part of the first decade of the 21st century, cameras became cheaper, accessible and improved storage ability changed the way business was conducted.
Before we had 20 minute tapes and we had to order them from overseas.”
“These days, you have to be in the business to understand the changes. If you go away for three years and come back, you have to learn it all again.
You’ll be lost.”