(o+) The Spectrum Saga


An Only Too Typical Story of Collusion between Inside "Sources", Blogs, the Media and Politicians: Twelve Days in November

"There's no denying that if you think them bad, they are bad and nothing they say or do will convince you otherwise."- Anon.

It all started a month or so ago when Streamcom NZ was hired to review the use of Fiji's airwaves.

Government was concerned about airwave efficiency and suspected earlier underhand dealings in their allocation. They must also have been aware -- but not necessarily influenced by knowing -- that the Fiji Broadcasting Commission (FBCL)  wanted an entry to TV and that MaiFM, recently awarded the 2010 Soccer World Cup televion rights, could only reach some urban areas using UHF. They needed a VHF channel to cover Fiji. 

D-Day. Thursday 12 November.  The President signed the National Spectrum Decree (No.48 of 2009). Its purpose  (clause 6a) was the fair allocation of airwaves to ensure economic efficiency, competition, and the public and national interest.  Current licensees were to continue operating on existing frequencies until actual airwave use and needs was determined.

For the record, this was not the only Decree promulgated this month although readers might think so. The foreign media published nothing on the Liquor, Income Tax, Gambling, Fiji Trust Fund, Crimes (making male customers of prostitutes equally wrong) Decrees, or the announced Child Welfare Decree which were all the product of an "illegal" President and regime.

When the foreign media finally picked up the Spectrum story on Saturday 21st, following two Coupfourpointfive blog postings on Thursday 19 (see below), only the possibly negative clauses were mentioned (no compensation to licensees if channels were changed or cancelled; no right of court appeal [decrees are laws; laws can be repealed but not appealed in any counry]; a fine or prison for non-compliance; the increased power of Sayed-Khaiyum (who happens to be the Minister responsible);and the possibly anti-democratic use of disclosed frequency information).

Bearing in mind Winston Churchill's warning "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on," let us see what followed.

Saturday 14th. Radio Fiji reports on the Decree, with Khaiyum's explanations. Geographical Media publishes the Decree.

Sunday 15th. FijiLive refers indirecly to the Decree ("improvement of info-commercial infrastructure.")

Tuesday 17th. FijiTV reports the Decree on its 6pm news.  There's still no mention by anti-Government blogs or the foreign media.

Thursday 19th, 8:14pm. Auckland-based blog Coupfourpointfive publishes "Analsyis of National Spectrum Decree" based on what its [inside Fiji] "sources say." In addition to the negatives cited above and the assumed benefits to FBCL (whose chief executive is the younger brother of the Minister Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum), the blog says disclosure of airwave fequency details will allow Government to "eavesdrop" on all telecommunications.

Friday 20th, 8:42amCoupfourpointfive publishes "NZ Firm Carried Out Spectrum Study" stating that Streamcom has no expertise in this area. Wellington-based blog FijiCoup2006 publishes the Coupfourpointfive item at 1:32pm.

Saturday 21th (but Friday 20 USA time). Blog RawFijiNews writes of "the sudden and until now unreported promulgation" (sic!) and publishes the Coupfourpointfive post. Also in the USA, blog FijiNews.ning publishes the RawFijiNews item.

Saturday 21th (in Fiji, Australia and NZ).

Fiji Sun prints Khaiyum's "Get Your Facts Right" address to Australia and NZ leaders. (The on-line edition did not appear until Monday but the ANZ HighComs should have been able to contact Canberra and Wellington before this.)
At 2:20pm FijiLive publishes "State to Regulate Telecom Providers" that briefly mentions the Spectrum Decree's "rationalization."
At noon Australian EST The Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian publishes Rowan Callick's "Fiji Strips Licences from Broadcasters." Callick repeats the negatives mentioned above, cites Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith repeating the same negatives: the Attorney-General's "absolute power" (Khaiyum is actually the Minister responsible); no appeal to courts; "effectively seizing" the licences; no compensation; five years jail; FBCL will gain at expense of FijiTV -- that is owned by Yasana Holdings that "represents the 14 ethnic Fijian provinces" (sic!)
At 3:45pm Melbourne's HeraldSun (another Murdock paper) reports Smith saying it's a "very bad sgn"; Khaiyum can strip broadcasters licences "at whim," and he'll raise the new Fiji situation at the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers' meeting in Trinidad on Tuesday.
At 7:38pm NZ's Pacific Scoop publishes The Australian story.
At 9:16pm RadioNZ does the same.

Sunday 22nd (but Saturday 21 in the USA). At 7:19am FijiToday publishes "Fiji Radio Spectrum Nationalized" and quotes from The Australian.

Sunday 22nd (in Fiji, Australia and NZ).
At 6:31am RadioNZ cites The Australian and Smith's remarks.
At 10:45am Fiji-based blog FijiToday  reports RadioNZ's "Clampdown" item.
At 12:48pm Coupfourpointfive copies and publishes Callick's The Australan article via AAP.
At 2:30pm RadioNZ reported "NZ 'Disturbed' at Reports of Fiji Media Clampdown". The item, circulated  by PacificMediaWatch, reported the NZ Government was "disappointed" with the "revocation" of broadcastng licences; quoted Smith's earlier remarks; said that Fiji media had to "justify" their airwave use; quoted Khaiyum ("It's to plan a future better use.."); cited Foreign Minister McCully spokesman ("it's determined to limit any public criticism"); said Media Freedom Committee spokesman Tim Pankhurst wanted more pressure on Fiji; to conclude with Australian media "Fiji's TV and radio broadcast this weekend on a temporary basis." [As if they were all to be put off air any minute.]
At 4:34pm NewsTalkZB reported McCully as disappointed and saying Khaiyum's explanation "doesn't wash."
PacificMediaWatch published Saturday's HeraldSun report.

Monday 23rd.
FijiSun on-line publishes Khaiyum's "Get Your Facts Right" item.
Khaiyum said ANZ were making "false allegations and misleding comments" and urged them to read the Decree. He said spectrum allocations will follow a tender process that will "complement Government's objective of transparency and accountability and minimize corruption."
RadioNZ at 6:59am  in "No Threat to Freedom of Expression in Fiji" reports Communications Fiji, that has 60 percent of the Fiji radio market, CEO William Parkinson as saying he "does not fear anything sinister. The haphazardly-managed airwaves are due for a shake-up." Canterbury Uni Jim Tully, however, said government control of ariwaves threatens freedom of speech, especially in remote [sic!] island nations such as Fiji which rely heavily on broadcast media."
At 10:08am EST an ABC interview with John Westland of Radio Australia "Interim Fiji Government Revokes Broadcasting Licences" had Westland talk of the "taking away of licences" and it having more to do with "who gets a licence," before he went on to say: "Frankly [with so little detail] we just don't know." Much of the interview is repeated on the Radio Australia News at 1pm EST.
At 12:20pm FijiCoup2006 publishes Khaiyum's FijiSun item.
At 7:11pm FijiLive does likewise. "denies muzzling media freedom.. [wants] an efficient system."
PacificMediaWatch reports that Fiji MaiTV welcomes the Decree. CEO Richard Broadbridge said they'd applied for a VHF licence nearly two years ago but had had to use UHF even though one broadcaster had more VHF channels than needed. He called the Decree "a step in the right direction to ensure all broadcasters are treated fairly, and that TV and radio stations are available to users easier and cheaper."
At 8pm FijiCoup2006 reprints the AAP on Smith saying the Decree was "a very bad signal".  and did not remove the error about the "14 ethnic Fijian provinces."

And since some will think me "bad" for publishing this, and "There's no denying that if you think them bad, they are bad and nothing they say or do will convince you otherwise," three more bad thoughts won't hurt: Who are Coupfourpointfive's inside sources? Are they journalists like themselves?  How is it that Rowan Callick and The Australian get so much inside information from Fiji?  Is it merely coincidental that The Fiji Times, The Australian and the HeraldSun are all owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, that also owns major papers in every Australian city, Wellington's DominionPost, and, incidentally, the Wall Street Journal and The Times?

And they talk of power, and control of the media!


Wednesday 25th.
Anti-Government blog FijiCoup2006 publishes FDN and RFN item.  Very strong anti-Sayed Khaiyum comments with racist undertones currently in the blogosphere.

Anti-Government blog FijiDemocracyNow publishes "NZ Streamcom admits it was used by Aiyaz Khaiyum to effect new broadcasting decree RFN" that is re-published by companion RawFijiNews. This is what they took from the Radio Australia Pacific Beat interview [See below and my new post 25th.]

PacificScoop publishes this blog's "Spectrum Saga". PacificMediaWatch printed it for circulation and, hey presto, its on Radio Australia.
Radio Australia (7pm, EST) summarises its Pacific Beat interview, citing NZ consultant company Streamcom head Simon Jackson as saying the Fiji Government had done the right thing."In fact, what we think is happening is that the Fijian government is currently trying to address years of neglect and mismanagement and actually corruption.And we found evidence of that and the way that radio spectrum had been managed."
Radio Australia Pacific Beat  interview of Nick Naidu (NZ Coalition for Democracy, against) and Simon Jackson (Streamcom, for the Decree)

Tuesday 24th.Citizens Constitutional Forum CEO Rev. Akuila Yabaki called on Government to use the Decree only to improve efficiency, saying existing licences should not be revoked, and broadcasters must not be pressured into accepting any deal that compromises their role in society. He thought an independent statutory body a more transparent and appropriate authority that the Minister of Information.

Anti-Government blog FijiDemocracyNow publishes "Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum corruption must be stopped" that is re-published by companion RawFijiNews. It lists of "Facts" includes the claim the Decree was kept secret for ten days. Actually, it was promulgatged on the 10th, reported by RadioFiji on the 12th, LiveFiji (in passing)  on the 15th, and FijiTV on the 17th.

Monday 23rd.At about 12:00pm (USA?) Solivakasamablog asks "Is there a Muslim conspiracy occurring in Fiji? (with the two Khaiyums, two Shameems and Aziz involved)....How can Indigenous Fijians sit and watch while these evil people tear their beloved Fiji apart?" and then reprints Saturday's HeraldSun story. A person commenting writes of Al Qaeda cells!

At about 9pm (USA?) Solivakasama reprints Saturday's The Australian article, and under a heading "All Talk No Action for Oinklets" says he "can't wait to see the boys from Delainabua [military barracks] sink their shiny boots into their [oinklets'] smugness."

CLARIFICATION. PacificMediaWatch is a neutral monitoring service that circulates original stories. It is not a news service. It did not "collude" with any of the events recorded.


Anonymous said…
Good post. Perhaps Stephen Smith and ABC are just fuming that ABC transmitters were removed and perhaps the reallocation of the spectrum actually makes sure that ABC does not have a license to broadcast in Fiji.

ABC article also interviews ABC Manager of Rebroadcasts who was also p.o and parroted the "fear" quotient.

What was amusing, was that Stephen Smith acts like these re-distribution/review did not get his approval or prior consent, like it was ever needed.
Anonymous said…
Good post I like the unbiased nature of the site.

However well intentioned this decree is it does put enormous power and influence into the hands of one man and under the current regime there is no possible way to challenge his decisions.

Since the abrogation of the constitution we have seen the regime take liberties with media freedom. We have seen them react swiftly and aggressively to anyone that opposes them. With that background I think it would be naive to just assume they would act responsibly with the powers created for the minister by this decree.

I would also say that any media owner in Fiji is not going to say anything opposed to this decree for obvious reasons.
Anonymous said…
A great piece of real journalism on your part, Croz. Congratulations.
MJ said…
What we really need is an analysis of how this decree differs from the way telecommunication broadcasting is regulated in Aust and NZ. In Australia the ACMA regulate all telecommunication through the Telecommunications Act 1997 and report to the Minister of Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. A brief look at the Act shows that the Minister has many powers. The ACMA even monitor radio broadcasters for "the fair reporting of news" as outlined in other Aust government Acts (see www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_91787). So why is this different to the decree by the Interim government in Fiji? The Fiji government has a right to regulate telecommunications like all government do. If the Aus/NZ foreign ministers wish to comment they should state exactly how Fiji dramatically differs from their own regulations.
FijiToday said…

FijiToday is a Fiji based site not USA.
Although our satphone is through an american provider I cannot see any other connection.
Good Post. We have made no secret that FijiToday is anti military and anti the current government although we do approve of some of what they propose just not the dictatorial how.
Croz Walsh said…
FijiToday. Thanks for this, and apologies. I'm struggling to get solid data for a paper I've giving to the PIPSA conference in Auckland Friday week. Can you tell me where other blogs are based, and anything else you know that won'y compromise them? Ethnic and occupational info on your and other blog teams would also be most helpful. I know Sai will be the Conference. If you know anyone else going, I'd be pleased to meet them. One day -- when all this is other -- it's important all principled people will fell comfortable sitting down to talk with each other. Best wishes, and tanks again. Hope to hear from yoju here or by croz.walsh@xtra.co.nz

Croz Walsh said…
Sorry for the typos above. Tired after a lousy game of golf!
Anonymous said…
Fantastic, Croz, that you've led the way in exposing the way this has all been manipulated. Notice you're being quoted all over the place today. Good for you.
Anonymous said…
I'll post anonymously, only because I share the surname of someone the regime saw fit to expel, and who is (in their most paranoic state - obsessed with, despite the fact we have ideological differences. It doesn;t actually matter in this context).
I notice all these comments about the unjust criticism of the regime. They mention (casually and in passing) various effects of decrees.

Decree? Hold on a minute... Decree?
Incrementalism seems to have normalised the concept of decree.
When we
ve got to the stage of absolute totalitariansim, I'm sure Frank will be ready to negotiate (in good faith, of course). We're very near, so maybe let's begin now.

Awe... but a decree in Fiji's interest (based on a minority belief that doesn't take account of indigenous interests, or indeed the welfare of diasporaic communities - one of whom I am related to that has sought refuge in NZ) Decree. What's wrong with decrees after all!

I notice also all the commendations and adverse reactions to the commentary.

Good Stuff Croz!! Well Done!! (Pat yourself on the back for your objectivity, realism, WHATEVER! (popularity, the number of facebook friends perhaps?).
Somehow I feel sure you could assist Steven Ratuva in his bid to empiracally categorise the characteristics of coups - all based on alpha-numeric spreadsheet cell identifiers under Microsoft EXCEL!
Indeed...Well Done Croz!
I'd like to be able to look back in 20 or 30 years, but I'm sure neither of us will be around!

I'm sure that after your lifetime and interest in the Pacific ..."CROZ", you feel you have "paid your dues".
I note from your recent criticism of some with opposing views though, i.e. those that have to deal day to day with the consequences of Frank's actions (and many in support of them), you appear to feel you have a better right to comment on how they are feeling - and from a position that is far more comfortable.

But then you are in equally "good" company.

I doubt though that you have actually delved deeply into Bainimarama's past, OR experienced directly the effects of his actions, and nor will you ever have to, OR that you have any experience or understanding of his dysfunction. He's well intentioned, has his nation's interests at heart, and that's all that matters aye?
But then the whole thing no doubt is providing a nice little academic exercise for analysis.

I'd be grateful for discussion sometime in the future, and now I recognise you from your photo, rest-assured I will approach you in a hospitable and pacifist fashion whenI next encounter you on your home turf.
In the meantime I suggest that the "neo-colonial" attitude and stance that the likes of the Shameens and Khaiyuums seem so ready to accuse others of is equally applicable to most that comment and post here in your favour. Actually I find it disgusting. Questions and definitions of self-determination, sovereignty, REPRESENTATIVE democracy, indigenous rights et al seem to have been lost and buried in amongst your clamour to claim the expertise of experience, AND some better right to comment on experiences that differ from your own. J'accuse, and all that.

Have a look at FOX News sometime (over time). Then look at how your approach with all it's empiricle, statistical approach that legitimises the stance taken COULD be somewhat similar. I know your intentions are noble, but bigotry and holier-than-thou attitude is coming dangerously close to FUCKING UP FIJI forever - or at least the foreseeable future. Or perhaps just get a brain transplant with someone surviving day-to-day.

I await your curmudgeon, "bitter-old-queen-that-had-the-audacity-to-challenge-you" response.
Croz Walsh said…
Last Anonymous. I think I understand what you are saying but just to make sure, would you please briefly state each of your main criticisms. You could tabulate, if this would make it easier.