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Fiji Media Mounts Campaign Against Broadcast Bill

Fiji Media Mounts Campaign Against Broadcast Bill

http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/wansolnews/2006/August/wansol2508061.html


By Sushil Patel

SUVA (Wansolwara Online/Pacific Media Watch): The media in Fiji has started a campaign against a Broadcast Licensing Bill currently before a parliamentary select committee.

The media says the government is attempting to control the media through the bill.

The Fiji Sun, in a strongly worded editorial yesterday, said if the bill is enacted, Fiji would be regarded as "little more than a banana republic, a pariah Mugabe-like state".

The editorial said the bill proposed to set up a body of "political appointees" at taxpayers' expense when the self-regulating Fiji Media Council was already doing an efficient job at no cost to government.

The bill vests in the Minister of Information the powers to appoint a chairperson and five other members of the Broadcast Licensing Authority.

Among other things, the authority will have a say on programming and content, and whether they serve the public interest or not.

It will also have the power to set up a complaints committee consisting of three members from the authority including the chairperson.

The bill proposes a fine of $500,000 levied on broadcast companies for any breach of their licensing agreement.

Breaches could also result in licences being revoked.

The Fiji Times, in a full-page article yesterday, highlighted the concerns of broadcasters while Fiji TV ran interviews with broadcasters castigating the bill as a gagging tool.

At a Fiji Media Council meeting on Wednesday, media company representatives lamented the lack of consultation.

They said they were hardly given a look at the bill before it was introduced into Parliament.

Council chairman Daryl Tarte said the bill, if passed, would make the council redundant.

Media companies agreed to mount a public awareness campaign about the bill, which they said was an attack on media freedom.

Government shelved a proposed Media Bill some years ago following a fierce anti-media bill campaign.


Ends

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