#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Motibhai the winner but what of the free press? Cafe Pacific take on sale of Fiji Times

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Motibhai the winner but what of the free press? Cafe Pacific take on sale of Fiji Times

SO the word is out after the smokescreen for the past few days has finally lifted: Motibhai is buying out the Fiji Times group.
This is an astute business coup by Mahendra Motibhai Patel, who heads the Motibhai and Company Ltd group. It will give him a powerful weapon to fight arch rival C. J. Patel, who owns the controlling interest in the Fiji Sun.

But in spite of the positive spin put on the deal by both the Rupert Murdoch camp’s News Ltd and Motibhai, it isn’t a good thing for Fiji journalism.

Both the C. J. Patel-owned Fiji Sun, which already cosies up to the military backed regime, and the Motibhai-dominated “new order” Fiji Times will too busy concentrating on getting a good business edge than worrying about quality journalism in an ailing post-coup economy.

A free press in Fiji is still at the end of a long dark tunnel.

Since censorship was imposed after the April 2009 abrogation of the Fiji constitution and then the imposition of the Fiji Media Industry Development Decree, Fiji Times advertising revenue has slumped.

But from the News Ltd perspective, at least Motibhai has a good understanding of the ethos of the 141-year-old Fiji Times. He has previously served on the board of the Fiji Times as a non-executive director.

It is a mystery why the Fiji Times did not divest a significant slice of its shareholding to local ownership some years ago, as News Ltd did with its Papua New Guinea newspaper company, South Pacific Post Ltd. It might have headed off this crunch time with the Bainimarama regime had it done so.

Instead it is now forced to sell up 90 percent of its shareholding to the Motibhai group to ensure that it complies with the 10 percent foreign shareholding limit under the terms of the decree.

News Ltd confirmed it is selling Pacific Publications (Fiji) Limited, parent company of the publisher of the Fiji Times, for an undisclosed sum in a statement. The sale is subject to final regulatory approval by the Fiji Commerce Commission with the expected wrap-up date for the sale due on September 22 – six days before the final decree deadline.

News Limited's chairman and chief executive John Hartigan was quoted as saying: "The sale to Motibhai represents the best possible outcome for the staff, advertisers and readers of the Fiji Times …

"Motibhai will be very good custodians of the newspaper and as shareholders they will be committed to the future of the Fiji Times.

Hartigan also thanked the directors and staff of the Fiji Times for their "hard work and loyalty" and for their "personal as well as professional commitment to the organisation".

A Motibhai Group statement said: "We understand the importance of history. The Fiji Times is 141 years old and Motibhai has been operating for 80 years.

"Together we will take the Fiji Times to new levels of success as we have done with our other major investments.

New team

Mahendra Patel told the Fiji Sun that a new management team would be named on September 22.

It is not immediately clear whether the Fiji Times real estate is part of the sale. The News Ltd statement did not give any indication but a Fiji Sun report today said it was believed the sale would “exclude the valuable property” in downtown Suva.

Fiji Times publisher Anne Fussell, who is expected to return to Australia soon, was reported to have told senior staff that “real estate is not included in the sale”.

“The sprawling Fiji Times headquarters in Suva fronts on to Victoria Pde, Butt St and Gordon St,” said the Sun. This area also includes the Fiji Times press.

But few staff had any idea about the fate of the newspaper. Just today, hours before the News Ltd announcement, popular Fiji Times columnist Seona Smiles made a plea for the survival of the newspaper at a global creativity and climate change conference at the University of the South Pacific.

And now, who will be the new Fiji Times editor?-Posted by Cafe Pacific at 1.48am

Picture: Fiji Times vendor Salesh Chand outside the newspaper office in Suva today. Photo: David Robie


Anonymous said...

Mahendra Patel's statement regarding the new editing policies of the Fiji Times would have sent the jitters through the spines of many of its loyal customers.What does he mean by stating that the new management will be "working" with the illegal regime?

If Mahendra is also intent on force feeding the public on one-sided Bainimarama propaganda relating to his junta then he better be prepared for a drastic drop in circulation.

Customers should all remember that the survival of any company is dependent on how much value they create in their products.If the Fiji Times lowers its current standards of expectations in regards to the non publication of Bainimarama junta rubbish then customers should not bother buying their papers.

Anonymous said...

Future investors in Fiji should be concerned of the very high risks associated with the illegal regime's willingness to interfere in the affairs of a private company as in the case of the Fiji Times.

As in any free market,any direct interference by an illegal regime on a private shareholding company will send tremors through the investment community and produce a negative effect on the stock markets and the economy

Without the transparency of parliamentary democracy, guessing the intention of the junta for the market is akin to gambling on a game of Blackjack.

Are the regime colluding with their corrupt business cohorts for further takeovers of other local businesses that have majority ownership? The Fiji Times case will have produced great uncertainty in regards to their local investments given all that has befallen News Ltd.If this can to News Ltd it can also happen to them.What risks does this situation add to their future growth strategies?

Coups are always a risky business concern because they create fertile grounds for corruption and for attracting unscrupulous investors who are out for a quick buck.Good governance and indeed high ethical standards are always the casualties of corrupt practices.

Mahen Chaudary made unsubstantiated references to Indian businessmen supporting the 2000 coups, so are we observing the emergence from the shadows of those that support this coup?

After all, is Motibhai colluding with the illegal regime because one may question the ethical nature of acquiring a legitimate business that was a product of a highly unethical and illegal decree? Given that the other tender "Fiji Sun" is the favored son of the regime,is not Motibhai taking on such a high risk?

Mahendra should clear the air concerning any shady dealings with the illegal regime and the public has the right to know if there were guarantees given and for what favours at the expense of media freedom?

Fiji Times fan said...

From today's Fiji Times:

"This purchase expresses our confidence in the future of Fiji. We will ensure that Fiji Times will operate as an independent unit within the Motibhai Group," chairman and chief executive of the Motibhai Group, Mahendra Patel said.

Mr Patel said his group had 80 years of business history in Fiji and expanded to new areas of business such as Fiji Foods and Prouds Stores.

"Fiji Times will be no exception," he said.

"We will take Fiji Times to a new level as we progress. We will ensure that the Fiji Times continues to be the preferred daily newspaper by the vast majority of Fiji's population and live by the adage "the day is not complete until you have read the Fiji Times," Mr Patel said.

Saying the 'right things' at the right time?

Blueprint for ruin said...

Anon@3.20pm Totally agree other businesses in Fiji should be guarding their backs and endorsing the call for the terms of he Motibhai deal to be disclosed. The forced sale of the Fiji Times is writing on the wall to foreign owned businesses, especially those who are not cosy with the military regime. It was a gutless decision by the owners of the paper to give in without a fight and it does not vode well for other foreign entrepreneurs. One hopes the Bainimarama regime self-destructs before it does more irreversible damage.

Anonymous said...

Na viavia TYCOON!!! Well @ least we know now that we won't be reading any of Mahen Patel's corruptions! Sa yawa ga ira na GUJI'S, they own the multi-million dollar business (living in corruption)now they'll own the one thing that give us Fijians information and which also educates our children. Let's hope they don't start putting the LOTUS flower on the front page!

Anonymous said...

Khaiyum should issue another decree to limit foreign imports to 10% and require 90% of all goods and services to be produced locally.

Roadmap to chaos said...

Another step along the roadmap to chaos. Fiji under the fool bhaini mongoose is just becoming a corrupt criminal enterprise.
The Fiji military are just lackeys too stupid to realise they are disinheriting their own people!