23 Aug 2006

Fiji media groups reject government plans for media watchdog

9:51 am on 23 August 2006

Fiji media organisations have joined forces to fight the Broadcast Licensing Bill which will give control of radio and television broadcasting to the government.

The Fiji Sun reports that the Bill has sparked fury and calls have been made not to curtail the media's watchdog function and leave issues of content to the Fiji Media Council.

The council chairman, Daryl Tarte, says it had not been consulted about the Bill which sets up a Broadcast Licensing Authority with powers to regulate content, good taste, and ethics and mete out punishment.

The chief executive of Fiji Television, Mesake Nawari, says the Bill is not only an attempt by the government to control and weaken the media, but also to suppress the rights of the people to freedom of expression.

William Parkinson, the managing director of Communications Fiji which runs radio stations in Fiji and PNG, says the importance of an independent media has been largely ignored in the Bill.

The chief executive of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Francis Herman, says his company is strongly opposed to any legislation that sets out to control the media by curtailing its independence and its watchdog functions.

The publisher of the Fiji Times, Tony Yianni, says legislating content is no good and probably against the constitution.