Sacked Fiji TV exec given no explanation
One of the two senior executives fired from Fiji TV last week, says she was given no explanation for her sacking and is not ruling out legal action against the broadcaster.
One of the two senior executives fired from Fiji TV last week, says she was given no explanation for her sacking and is not ruling out legal action against the broadcaster. Former content manager Tanya Waqanika, and her chief executive Tevita Gonelevu, were fired last Tuesday. Fiji TV's chairman, Ioane Naiveli, says they were dismissed to improve the company's chances of getting its licence extended.
Earlier this month, Fiji lost television coverage of the Dubai Sevens after the sport's governing body, World Rugby, objected to a government decree overriding broadcast rights that had been given to Fiji TV. Ms Waqanika says she's been blamed for the loss of Dubai 7s coverage, despite her telling the government that the decree would be in breach of contract. She told Jamie Tahana how events transpired.
TANYA WAQANIKA: We had received an email from our CEO on Monday that there was going to be a meeting with the board on Tuesday morning at 10. I received a call from my CEO at 10 o'clock and he told me "you need to get ready". I said "what do you mean?" and he said "you need to get ready, Tanya, they're ging to remove you". I said "okay" and put the phone down and then I picked it up again and dialled him and I said "who else is coming with me?" and he said "I am". Tevita stood up for me. Because this is not the first time that I've been told to go. So we went into the boardroom, myself and Tevita and the other executives. And Nouzab Fareed was there along with Ioane Naiveli, and their lawyer, and basically told us that our services were no longer required.
JAMIE TAHANA: What reason was given for that?
TW: We asked them for a reason for termination of our contract. They said "we reserve the right to.. under the contract, we do not need to give you a reason". And I find it quite funny, you know, because we're all professionals. I said "We've been working here all this time. We're professionals, you are. Give us a reason." They said "we reserve the right to not tellyou a reason". That was fair enough. Then the very next day, I read in the print media, the chairman of Fijian Holdings, and also I believe the chairman of Fiji TV, Ioane Naiveli giving the reasons to the media. Basically, we were sacrificed for a twelve year license. For us to go, Fiji TV was going to be given a twelve-year license. So for Tevita and I are valuable commodities, to be traded in for a twelve-year license. So the license for Fiji TV expires on 31st December. The good thing about it, Fiji TV's license will now be secured for twelve years. So everybody, the shareholders, will be expecting that, including me, that come on or before the 31st of December, Fiji TV will be issued with a twelve-year license based on the comments made by Ioane Naiveli, that we were let go to secure the license.
JT: So you were sacrificed for the sake of Fiji TV's TV license for twelve years. That would have come up in negotiations with the government over renewal of this license, wouldn't it?
TW: I would assume so but I do not discuss things at that level because when it comes to discussions of license, it's a board issue and the government, the Ministry of Communications. The Minister of Communications issues the license.
JT: And of course in the past week, the Minister of Communications has been in quite an embarrassing situation with Fiji TV and World Rugby over the Sevens broadcasting. Now there is a lot of comment from the opposition that these are related. Is that what you believe?
JT: How so? How has this seemed to have transpired, to you?
TW: I was actually asked about four or five weeks ago by Tevita to resign. But I knew it wasn't coming from him. I was blamed for the Gold Coast (Sevens) feed not coming in. At the end of the day, we did not do the decree. World Rugby is a different international body altogether. Sorry, it wasn't the Gold Coast, it was the Dubai Sevens. They reserved the rights not to provide the feed. What can we do? We were aware of the contractual legal arrangements, and we had told the government reps on the 10th of October that for us to share the feed, there was going to be a breach. We breached when we shared the Gold Coast leg and we did tell the government representatives - the Director of Communications and the acting senior legal officer with the AG's chambers - that the breach we did for the Gold Coast Sevens which we were forced upon, that there was going to be consequences from World Rugby, because we had a legal obligation to inform them under the contract if there were going to be any breaches. And sure enough, Dubai Sevens came; when my team made the contract to secure the satellite details, an email came from Proactive: you can't get it, there's a breach. So for Tevita and I specifically to be blamed, it's quite pathetic.
JT: So that saga happened, World Rugby did stand up here and then there were these last minute negotiations ahead of the Africa Sevens. Ahead of that, though, at the height of it, Fiji TV via the Ministry had a letter released supporting the government's position on the Sevens and stuff, there were reports that it wasn't written by Fiji TV, it was under duress. Is that the case?
TW: I was in that meeting. There were five of us from Fiji TV, there was the attorney general, the solicitor general and the legal officer. The letter that was signed by Tevita and Ioane Naiveli, I can confirm it was not drafted by Fiji TV. It was given to us in that meeting by the AG himself to be signed by the two from Fiji TV.
JT: For a supposedly independent, public company, Fiji TV, this is an awful lot of state involvement?
TW: It is. This is something that shareholders will have to... they'll have to take their own legal advice. I'm not a shareholder, in fact I'm no longer an employee. If they need to seek legal advice... During my ten years, as one of the executives, we've always had to ensure that we secured the license. That was always critical to the survival of the company. So, there were others before me that were told to go. I think in today's papers, in the Fiji Times, Dr Biman Prasad and Ratu Isoa Tikoca made reference to that. People need to work in a free environment, and stand up for the truth and speak the truth. We're now in a democracy.
JT: So what next for you?
TW: Me? I'm a lawyer. I've been a lawyer for eighteen years. This morning I got a call, I was offered a job. I'm still pondering on it. I've had other job offers coming in. I'm a working, professional woman, but I think it's time I just relax and enjoy time with the family.
JT: There has been this suggestion of legal action taking place over the dismissal. Is this something you are weighing up?
TW: We have not settled, put it that way. To be honest, Jamie, I am at peace. I've got nothing to lose. I'm just grateful to God that I'm still alive and I'm ok. I've moved on.
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