Ownership issue needs much wider consultations – Naidu

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Suva lawyer Richard Naidu chats with Solicitor General Ropate Green Lomavatu during the Media Industry Development Act public consultation at the Suvavou House in Suva on Thursday, March 23, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Be careful what you wish for.

Suva lawyer Richard Naidu said this in response to media organisations proposing that there be provision for foreign ownership of local media in the draft Media Ownership and Registration Bill 2023.

The issue was discussed at a public consultation on the review of the Media Industry Development Act 2010 at Suvavou House yesterday.

He said questions around ownership needed much wider consultations.

In some cases, Mr Naidu said there were countries that had rules on foreign ownership and cross ownership while others did not have anything at all.

He said the Bill preserved the status quo and left the rules of cross and foreign ownership as they were in the media decree, and that was a question of opinion.

Mr Naidu said Communications Fiji Ltd news director Vijay Narayan had highlighted that before the Media Act there were no rules on cross media ownership or foreign ownership.

Then, he said the Media Bill arrived one day and media organisations had two hours to offer their views before it became a decree.

“So which status quo ought to be preserved, the one before the media decree was imposed or the one as it stands right now and those are legitimate questions that needs to be asked right now,” Mr Naidu said.

“So, there is whole range of things which need to be reviewed which probably take a bit of time to review.

“There are different views being expressed for foreign ownership and the point is made if you allow foreign ownership, you get better investment, better input and possibly a stronger news media.

“On the other hand, not all foreign ownership is benign, and we should be careful about what we wish for there.”

In his contribution, Mr Narayan said media organisations needed foreign investment to grow.

“With this new draft, we can understand that the content regulation is completely out, however, with the restrictions in investment, that also stunts our growth as media workers.

“On cross media, we as media workers agree there should be a level playing field, this Government preached about leveling the playing field and we as industry players agree that should be done.

“So why should there be a law to maintain the uneven playing field.”

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