Ranjit Singh's Recent Visit Home: Changes in TV Viewing
The phoenix at Fiji Broadcasting Commission rises from its ashes
Thakur Ranjit Singh
It was a very comfortable ride in Sunbeam round –the –island bus leaving Suva bus station at 6 am on a clear Hibiscus week morning via Kings Road for Ba on Thursday 23 August, 2012.
I was pleasantly surprised at the improvements in Suva after a lapse of five years. Apart from that, the standard of public transport, especially buses have remarkably increased. After arriving in Suva from Nadi via Pacific Transport’s new Chinese air-conditioned coach, I had no hesitation in catching Sunbeam’s equally elegant –looking bus. The almost-completed (some ten minutes remaining) Kings road looks and feels great. Having travelled Canada in Greyhound buses between Terrace, Jasper, Edmonton, and Calgary on my recent trip for some 25 hours, I found Fiji services equal to or even better and friendlier, but that is another story for another day.
When I reached my dusty settlement Rarawai Golflinks in Ba at around midday, I was shocked to see houses in a state of lock-up and not a single soul outside in sight. Only when I knocked at my family home did I see all glued to their TV watching Hindi soap opera, Pavitra Rishta, (clean and principled relationship) which is later followed by another mother-in-law, sister -in-law ding-dong.
My brother in Ba demands early lunch to be undisturbed for midday’s programme, and the whole family was glued to FBC TV’s new daytime Hindi drama. I went to the next door neighbour sister –in-law, and same story. Thanks to FBC TV for bringing these free Indian programmes in daytime when almost the whole of Fiji gets together to watch entertaining family dramas. With subtitles in English, the programmes are seen with equal enthusiasm by iTaukei and other races as well.
“We know of a case in rural Nausori where, when some iTaukei ladies get off their buses for a fair distance walk to their village, they knock on the door of my aunty to seek permission to see Pavitra Rishta because they don't want to miss the programme while walking home. Such is the craze of our free sub-titled Hindi and other popular English programmes that our new station is providing free to our viewers", said a very cheerful and energetic Riyaz Saiyed-Khaiyum, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC).
This has been Fiji’s pioneer radio station which has now branched out as FBC TV, providing those popular programmes, where Riyaz has been still newly appointed, having been in the job for only four years. I had the opportunity to catch up with him in my recent trip to Fiji.
Telling about his ordeal when he took over, he thought of running away from a station that was in disarray, very poorly resourced and maintained where they had to use umbrellas in board room and offices when it rained. They were fortunate that it rained the day Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama called in to see firsthand the dilapidated situation at FBCL and they had to call for umbrellas. It was then decided to inject capital, not only to renew and expand current radio broadcasting capabilities but also to expand and branch out into television.
“It was a struggle, quite difficult to instil positivity in a situation full of negativities but with a dedicated team, very long hours and hard work, we were able to make it,” he said.
The success story at FBC since his appointment in 2008 is self-evident, and is an envy and disappointment to those who questioned his appointment to the position. For the first time in FBC’s history, a profit of over half a million dollars was posted in the first year of Riyaz’s appointment.
“Most Journalists who were hounding me when I started did not want to talk to me about FBC’s success when we posted our profits in the first quarter of that year. Our first year profits was more than the accumulated profits for the ten years prior to my arrival in 2008, and we became one of the top performing government commercial companies since 2008,” said Riyaz of FBC’s success story which continues showing increasing profits for radio operations since 2008. In addition to this success story, FBC has successfully completed the biggest broadcast media upgrade and development in all of South Pacific with state of the art equipment that is not even available in Australasia.
After seeing changes at FBC, renovations of the 52 –year old building to state-of art media outlet, interviewing people and finding them talk positively about FBC radio stations and new FBC TV and listening to this young dynamic CEO of FBC, I am reminded of the legendary Greek bird Phoenix which has a 500 to 1000 year life-cycle. Near the end, it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again. The new phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self.
I am now seeing FBC rising from its ashes. Riyaz Sayed Khaiyum created controversy when he joined FBC, some claiming he lacked the depth of CEO and business acumen. After having visited and seen FBC and its new facilities, taking feedback from people and after listening to his vision and thoughts about changes to TV scene and new home-grown model of journalism; I can say without doubt that all prophets and pundits of doomsday have been miserably disappointed and have been proved wrong – FBC now has an able and deserving captain.
With Riyaz Sayed Khaiyum at the helm, Fiji Broadcasting Commission is rising like that legendary Greek phoenix bird from its ashes – that is FBC and FBC TV of 2012.
(Thakur Ranjit Singh is a Fijian political analyst and media commentator with extensive work experience in trade, industry, commerce and media in Fiji. Currently he Auckland-based CEO of Media Relations Limited- a public relations, promotions and event management company aiming to help Fijian businesses and organisations increase business, trade and service associations with NZ. His company details are at the website: www.mediarelations.co.nz )