Broadcasting for change

By Sam Johnstone

Domenic Friguglietti’s career with the ABC has taken him from the forefront of the digital media revolution to delivering essential communication services in remote communities in the Asia-Pacific.

It was 1995 and the internet was steadily being adopted by the mainstream. As users were enjoying the perks of this innovation – ordering pizzas online and chatting in cyber cafés – Domenic Friguglietti (GDipCommLaw 2006) was hard at work negotiating media production agreements for the ABC’s growing online presence.

As its New Media Division Manager of Commission and Co-productions, Friguglietti needed to bridge the gap between the demands of digital and the world of traditional broadcasting.

“There was very little experience or knowledge about digital media rights back in the late ‘90s and early 2000s,” he says.

“I was going to the ABC lawyers on some of these production deals we were putting together and we had clauses in there focusing on film negatives.

“I kept saying to our lawyers, ‘look, this doesn’t need to be in here, we’re dealing with online media’.”

Friguglietti, whose career in broadcasting spans more than 30 years, recognised a need to improve communication around the legal requirements of digital media.

This led him to undertake a Graduate Diploma of Media Communications and IT Law at Melbourne Law School – a qualification that has proved invaluable to his career, including in his current role as head of the ABC’s International Development branch.

Partnering with aid and development bodies, the branch connects  and empowers people in the Asia-Pacific through diverse projects like strengthening capacity at Papua New Guinea’s national broadcaster, supporting female sports journalists, and guiding the technical elements of a school enrolment campaign in Vanuatu.

Friguglietti uses his broadcasting experience to work with governments, organisations and community groups on projects that have a real local impact.

One initiative involved partnering with state-run radio stations in Cambodia to introduce talk-back radio, facilitating a dialogue between citizens and the representatives of local authorities who appear on air.

“We’re not there to introduce talk-back radio for people to use as a platform around politics and the politics of the country – that’s not our responsibility,” Friguglietti notes.

But he says local communities have used the radio to highlight important issues, and public officials have been held to account for promises made on air. This has led to positive outcomes including the removal of illegal rubbish dumps, crime reduction and the repair of a long-neglected bridge.

It is really rewarding to see the change we’ve been able to achieve at a citizen level.

A career highlight?

Friguglietti nominates flying in a small plane to an isolated island with the Prime Minister of Vanuatu to help restore a short-wave radio facility, allowing the community to hear Radio Vanuatu for the first time in 11 years.

“I remember a local woman crying, saying ‘I can hear the voice that belongs to Vanuatu now’,” he says.

“It really hit home to me that radio is a tool of information for people in outlying areas of Vanuatu. Simple things like shipping news, cyclone warnings, education for their children, when the flights were going to come in – all those things they [now] had access to.

“That was probably one of the most special moments.”

Banner image: Domenic Friguglietti (GDipCommLaw 2006) with Mr Kroch, Director of the Provincial Department of Information Radio Station in Kampong Cham. Credit: Ta Rath.

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 19, May 2018