World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 

Tailor-Made for Fiji

Tailor-Made for Fiji

By Dr Marc Edge
4 September 2011

Suva - Fiji has to tailor its regulations according to what it needs. This statement, which I made recently in a presentation to the quarterly meeting of media liaison officers from the Ministry of Information, was reported in The Fiji Times without context, leading some to assume that I was referring to and perhaps even endorsing censorship.

I was not. I was instead referring to the other main thrust of the 2010 Media Decree, which is the limit it places on foreign ownership of Fijian media. This is a subject I have studied and published scholarly research on.

Most countries have historically imposed limits on foreign ownership of media out of concern over foreign propaganda and domination by more powerful nations. In the recent worldwide push for deregulation, however, some countries have loosened or even lifted their foreign media ownership limits.

Britain loosened its limits in 2003 and Australia removed its altogether in 2006.

New Zealand was one of the first countries to lift its foreign ownership limits in 1991 after TV3, its first private television network, went into bankruptcy. It was then bought by Canadian company Canwest Global Communication, which turned TV3 into a money maker by slashing domestic program production and airing cheap re-run Hollywood programming in its place. It sold TV3 for a handsome profit in 2007 to an Australian company. Australians now control much of New Zealand's media.

Two Australian companies publish more than 90 percent of its newspapers.

Fairfax, the largest, recently pulled out of the country's 130-year old news co-operative, the New Zealand Press Association, resulting in its closure this week.

National differences
But what works for one country, or arguably doesn't work, won't necessarily work for another.

The United States, for example, takes press freedom very seriously.

Its founding fathers made press freedom the first amendment to the US Constitution and this guarantee has been interpreted as almost absolute.

There are thus no limits on ownership of US newspapers, although broadcasting is heavily regulated as in most countries.

Rupert Murdoch bought his first American newspaper in 1973, and a few years ago bought the country's largest and most influential financial newspaper, the Wall Street Journal.

But when he wanted to buy television stations and start the Fox network in the mid-1980s, he had to take out US citizenship, which ironically made him a foreign owner of the press in his native Australia, which at that time restricted foreign ownership to 15 percent of a newspaper company.

A special law had to be passed exempting Murdoch from his own country's foreign media ownership laws. He now owns about two thirds of Australian dailies.

In my country of Canada, press freedom guarantees are not as absolute as they are in the US, largely out of concern over upsetting the country's multicultural balance. Press freedom in Canada is instead limited by the rights of identifiable groups, such as ethnic minorities, not to be subjected to hate speech, which is allowed in the US.

In Canada, we also worry about being dominated by our powerful neighbour to the south and becoming a 51st American state. Long before there was globalisation, Canadians feared "continentalisation" in North America as a result of US media streaming unimpeded across the border.

Media regulations
We thus passed numerous media regulations, including quotas for Canadian content broadcast on radio and television.

Canadians did not want giant American corporations and media moguls owning our newspapers, in which much of the country's political dialogue takes place. Limiting ownership of newspapers might have been seen as infringing on press freedom, however, so Canada devised a clever way to get around this conundrum.

An amendment to the tax laws was passed in the mid-1960s making advertising an expense deductible from business income only if it is published in mostly Canadian-owned periodicals. This had the effect of limiting foreign ownership because businesses would be unlikely to place advertisements unless the cost of doing so was tax deductible.

Every country is different, and its unique needs are a result of its history, geography, demographics and culture.

Every country is entitled to determine its own media policy based on its needs regardless of the direction other nations may be going.

Fiji is a sovereign nation and is perfectly entitled to swim against the tide of deregulation if that is what it decides is best for it.

Fiji has decided that its experiment with allowing foreign media ownership didn't work out and has changed the rules because the media here were seen to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Given recent revelations in Britain about Rupert Murdoch's journalism practices, many in Britain and the US are wondering if it was wise to allow him to control so much of their media.

Fiji's decision to show him the door actually looks pretty good right now.

Media reformers worldwide have long been calling for measures to break up big media companies that have become more powerful than some governments. We have been shouted down largely because big media controls the apparatus of dialogue. Rolling back media power in Fiji could be just what the country needs.

That is what I was trying to say.

*************

Dr Marc Edge is a senior lecturer and head of journalism at USP. His most recent book is Asper Nation: Canada's Most Dangerous Media Company. This article has been republished from the Fiji Times with the permission of the author. Find him online at www.marcedge.com

* USP academic warns Fiji media advisers over 'balance':
http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/pacific-media-watch/fiji-usp-academic-warns-media-officers-over-balance-7593

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 


Covid-19: Vaccines Donated Next Year, ‘Too Late For Those Who Are Dying Today’

Millions more COVID vaccines need to be donated now to save lives and help the UN health agency reach the key global target of having 70 per cent of all national populations vaccinated, by the middle of 2022... More>>


UN News: Landmark G7 Agreement Pledges 870 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses, Half By End-2021

A senior UN official welcomed on Sunday, the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations’ commitment to immediately share at least 870 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, supporting global access and helping to end the acute phase of the pandemic... More>>



OECD: G20 GDP Returns To Pre-pandemic Level In The First Quarter Of 2021, But With Large Differences Across Countries

Gross domestic product (GDP) of the G20 area returned to pre-pandemic level in the first quarter of 2021, growing by 0.8% compared with the fourth quarter of 2020. However, this figure conceals large differences across countries... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs


COP26: Progress Made As May-June UN Climate Change Session Closes

The May-June Climate Change Session, the first to have been held virtually to prepare for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held at the end of the year in Glasgow, Scotland, closed today... More>>

UNFCCC: Halving Emissions By 2030 Is New Normal - Race To Zero Anniversary
Over 4,500 non-state actors from across the global economy have committed to halving emissions by 2030, joining the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign... More>>


UN: Tackling Biodiversity & Climate Crises Together And Their Combined Social Impacts

Unprecedented changes in climate and biodiversity, driven by human activities, have combined and increasingly threaten nature, human lives, livelihoods and well-being around the world... More>>