The Regulation of National Spectrum Decree that was promulgated by the regime appointed President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau bestows absolute powers on the interim Communications Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to control the allocation and re-allocation of frequencies used for all types of broadcast in Fiji.
The commencement of the Decree, dated 13th November, has cancelled all existing licenses and use of radio frequencies by Fiji’s radio television broadcasters, radio telephone operators etc. Radio and Television broadcasters using frequencies for many years are now operating on the frequencies on a temporary basis, subject to determination by the interim Minister (Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum), which may or may not result in the issuance of a new licence to them - 3(1) of Decree.
3(3) of the Decree states that no existing licensee or any other person or body shall be entitled to any compensation or any other remedy in relation to the cancellation, reallocation or any other action or decision whatsoever taken by the interim Minister or his agent. The Decree further states this is despite such action or decision’s impact on the allocation or use of spectrum, and, frequency or microwave links by the existing licensee (broadcasters) or any other persons.
3(4) is yet another clear signal of the regime’s interference and control of the judiciary following the abrogation of the Constitution in April. The Administration of Justice Decree threw out of the Court system all cases challenging the military coup of December 2006, termination of employment by the military of chief executives and other key post holders, the validity of the regime and the abrogation of the Constitution.
Similarly 3(4) of the latest Decree states no Court, Tribunal, Commission or any other adjudicating body shall have the jurisdiction to accept hear, determine or in an way entertain any challenges whatsoever (including application for judicial review), or award compensation to any one whose licence or frequency has been reallocated or cancelled.
5(1) of the Decree empowers the regime’s Minister (Sayed-Khaiyum) to allocate or reallocate frequencies as he deems just and fair in the national interest.
Part 6 of the Decree empowers him to make decisions and act in a manner that is fair, economically efficient and encourages competition in the market.
These two sections of the Decree clearly indicate that Fiji Broadcasting Commission Ltd, managed by Aiyaz’s younger brother Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will be the major beneficiary. It also mans that should Fiji TV’s licence to operate its free channel is either re-allocated or cancelled, FBCL’s proposed TV service will be assigned the frequency since it has nationwide coverage. A similar scenario exists for Communication Fiji Limited (private radio station) networks that have more extensive coverage throughout Fiji than FBCL stations.
Another beneficiary of this latest decision by Sayed-Khaiyum could be Mai TV, operated by former Fiji TV employee Richard Broadbridge. Mai TV has very limited coverage in basically urban centres in the Central Division and two centres in the Western Division.
Mai TV has secured the rights for the 2010 Soccer World Cup, which it is advertising as its prized catch. Sources point out that under the broadcast rights, Mai TV will have to show the entire World Cup throughout Fiji, which it had promised to do earlier this year.
They say since the World Cup is about 7 months away, there is no chance of Mai TV expanding its coverage area to throughout Fiji as this requires a substantial investment of millions of dollars.
Sources say no one should be surprised if Sayed-Khaiyum temporarily reallocates Fiji One TV frequency to Mai TV for the duration of the World Cup next year to ensure the struggling television broadcaster is able to fulfill its obligations.
Apart from radio, television broadcasters and radio telephone operators, all other users of a frequency between 3Hz and 300GHz are required to fully disclose their spectrum or frequencies. This also includes telecommunication operators as well as diplomatic missions that use secure communication frequencies to communicate abroad from Fiji.
Sources say this will allow the regime to eavesdrop on all communications happening both within Fiji as well as from Fiji to overseas destinations since they will have full and unrestricted access and knowledge of the frequencies. Sources say opponents of the regime and pro-democracy activists will be the biggest targets of the regime.
This is possible because every detail about the use of a certain frequency or microwave signal has to be submitted to the regime’s Communications Minister, instead of basic information that has been the case. The Decree empowers the regime to designate a ministry o telecommunications authority to monitor compliance by a licensee.
It means that no mode of communication will be safe and fool proof, which is further encroachment on the diminishing rights, freedoms and liberties of Fiji citizens and others residing in the dictatorship country.
Part 7 of the Decree states that any operator, broadcaster or person who uses a frequency in contravention of the allocation made by the regime’s Minister can be fined up to $100,000 or be imprisoned for up to 5 years.
And any one who fails to disclose full information about a frequency to the regime’s Minister can also be fined up to $100,000 or imprisoned for up to 5 years.
On the other hand those losing a licence or frequency have no legal redress for justice or compensation.
Sources point out that the provisions of the Spectrum Decree also indicates the power and influence of Aiyaz Sayed–Khaiyum in the regime despite some senior military officers like Pita Driti’s attempts to have him sacked.