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Fiji Television Defies Minister Over Fight Date

12 November 2000

* Information Minister tries to gag Fiji TV: http://www.asiapac.org.fj/cafepacific/resources/aspac/fiji3068.html#GAG

* Rebel raid on Fiji TV: http://www.pmw.c2o.org/docs00/TVfiji.html

SUVA: Fiji Television is defying a directive by the military installed interim administration to provide live broadcast coverage on today's title defence by world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis against Pacific challenger David Tua on the free-to-air channel.

The television company will go ahead with its scheduled broadcast of the fight on its Sky pay channel (1500 Fiji local time) in spite of the order by Information Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. It will replay the fight later on the free channel.

Defending the station's decision on Fiji TV news on 11 November 2000, chief executive Ken Clark said the company did not have broadcast rights for the fight on free-to-air and thousands of new subscribers had paid to see the fight live on Sky.

If the station broadcast the fight live on the free-to-air channel, "our credibility would go out the window".

Clark said the company had made a proper commercial decision based on the "Tuamania" sweeping Fiji and the Pacific and the desire of Sky subscribers to benefit from exclusive sport coverage.

He said the fight could be repeated on the free channel next Sunday.

Speaking about previous attempts by the ministry to impose programming decisions on the station, Clark said: "Where does it stop?"

According to the Fiji Times newspaper on November 11, Kubuabola had said in a letter to Clark the fight had gained a high degree of public interest, which "entitled" Fiji viewers to live broadcast coverage.

Kubuabola quoted Fiji Television provisions under Section 10(1) and (3) of Part III of the Television Decree 1992, in which Fiji TV was said to be obliged to provide live broadcast coverage of such events on the free-to-air channel.

Clark told the Fiji Times it would be impossible because the company did not have the rights to screen the fight on its free-to-air channel.

"We only have the rights for the pay TV channel," he was quoted as saying.

"The reputation of the pay TV channel is at risk here. We can't tell people one thing and change things at the last moment."

On October 30, Fiji Television defied an earlier "directive" from Kubuabola and featured deposed elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry on its Close-Up current affairs programme in spite of a warning by the minister that the interview could promote "civil insurrection or disobedience".

There were no incidents.

* Following a coup by failed businessman George Speight on May 19, the Fiji military seized control of the country 10 days later, abrogated the constitution and installed an appointed civilian regime with the task of restoring democracy to the country. Speight and 13 other rebels are being detained on treason charges on the prison isle of Nukulau.

+++niuswire

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