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Rugby Union Bans Fiji Television Over Political Ad

Rugby Union Bans Fiji Television Over Political Advert

SUVA (Pacific Media Watch): The Fiji Rugby Football Union has suspended Fiji Television from covering any of its matches in protest over a political advertisement featuring celebrity player Waisale Serevi, according to news media reports.

Fiji TV reported on its main news bulletin on 2 August 2001 that it had been banned and this was followed with a front-page report in the Fiji Times on August 3. An editorial in the Fiji Times condemned the FRFU for its action, saying rugby was "out of touch" over the issue.

Accusing Fiji TV of being "arrogant", the FRFU imposed the suspension after the station refused to pull out a New Labour Unity Party paid advertisement showing party leader Dr Tupeni Baba with player Serevi, who is wearing a national Fiji team jersey with the sponsor's logo.

The Fiji Times reported that FRFU lawyer Samuela Matawalu said he would file an injunction seeking damages because the union's contractual relationship with local telephone company Vodafone and New Zealand clothing manufacturer Canterbury had been affected.

Matawalu said Fiji Television was more concerned with contractual interests with NLUP and not FRFU.

"Our sponsors don't want to be linked to any political party," he told the Fiji Times.

"Amazingly, if you read their [NLUP] manifesto, there is no mention on helping Fiji rugby."

Vodafone bought the naming rights for FRFU for F$200,000 a year.

FRFU chief executive Bob Challenor said on Fiji Television he was disappointed with the station's "arrogance" in not discussing the issue.

But Fiji Television's chief executive Ken Clark said in a telephone interview from New Zealand that the matter was a legal one between the FRFU and NLUP.

He said the decision to ban TV cameras would not do any good for rugby and its development.

Deposed deputy prime minister Dr Baba told the Fiji Times he had asked Serevi, who led the Fijian Barbarians to a resounding victory over the Australian Barbarians last weekend, not to wear a national rugby jersey in future advertisements.

"He will continue to appear in television commercials supporting the NLUP with a jersey not linked to the union," Dr Baba told the Fiji Times.

He said the decision was taken to prevent the FRFU threat of a blackout and maintain television coverage for rugby fans.

The Fiji Times said the suspension would end on August 24 when political campaigning for the week-long general election would end.

In its editorial, the Fiji Times praised Dr Baba for his "11th hour intervention" and said: "Instead of adopting its usual belligerent attitude, the FRFU could have resolved this quietly by talking to the people responsible for the advertisement. The union should ask itself why it did not do so, but chose a path of confrontation instead.

"No doubt the NLUP is grateful for the extra publicity - but the image of the national game is the loser in all of this."

+++niuswire

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH ONLINE: http://www.pmw.c2o.org


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