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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 29, 2000 - Fiji Islands Business/PINA Nius Online)---Years ago, people used to listen to "Sergeant Preston" on the radio. He was a Royal Canadian "Mountie," always coming to someone's rescue. In 1992, it was a Canadian outfit that decided it could save New Zealand's TV3, in receivership after just three years of operation, and going down the gurgler fast.

They named Canadian Ken Clark chief executive, totally restructured the ailing New Zealand company, and in true Sergeant Preston style, saved the day. TV3 in still going strong, a plus in Clark's heavily broadcast-oriented CV.

Now, he's chief executive of Fiji Television Limited, the amiable head honcho of a staff of about 80 people if you include the part-timers. Clark was born in Nova Scotia, a veteran of eastern province TV stations (most at least affiliated with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and makes no bones about the fact that "what I bring to Fiji is a lifetime of broadcasting expertise."

This, despite the fact that there was a government-initiated fuss about his appointment, a long delay in getting his work permit, and all at a time when "expatriate" was practically being turned into a dirty word.

He still spends a lot of time "head-butting"': fighting a new government which isn't happy with Fiji TV's exclusivity agreement, style of news reporting ("Fiji's too sophisticated to accept government-sponsored handouts as prime media") and the nearly daily campaign against expats.

In that regard, he's not alone: Fiji TV's board chairman (also managing director of the Fiji Development Bank) Isoa Kaloumaira said he had hoped a new government would endorse the contracts government had (earlier) signed with Fiji TV, leaving the company to concentrate on matters of broadcasting other than focusing time, energy and money on legal challenges. He also assured shareholders that the board followed an entirely appropriate, lawful and courteous path in the choice of Ken Clark earlier this year as chief executive."

Sir Vijay Singh's newspaper column (Fiji Times, Tuesday, January 11) noted that "the controversy generated by the refusal of a work permit to the chief executive of Fiji TV . . .raise important questions of concern to investors. If a company considers that its investment interests are best advanced by the recruitment or retention of an expatriate executive, should the government second-guess the investor?"

Double the return: Enough said. Clark's own comments are along the lines that he could have been doing more useful things for the 4.5 months it took, fighting to get a work permit.

So just what is happening to Fiji TV? Well, for the second year in a row, the company made a profit -- double the return, in fact, it made last year. Performance, says Clark, is "significantly ahead of where it was expected to be when the station was launched in 1994. The 100% improvement shows both Fiji One and SKY's (pay TV) earnings before interest and taxes of $169,000". This, during a year in which election jitters, floods, drought and the resulting slow economy actually left advertising revenue about 12% below budget. SKY TV, with an income of $2.3 million, is 4% below budget and still not making a profit, but it's "on par with expectations" and showing a 50% improvement on the budget prepared last year.

Part of that increase, says Clark, is due to an increase from sales of SKY PLUS, another channel which allows pay-TV viewers to quickly choose between Hindi and English-language programs. "Knowing where to find something is a significant factor in SKY's growth performance over the past year."

"But," says the chief executive, "we're still not everywhere we'd like to be. There's no SKY channel in Savusavu or Labasa . . .quite a few places in Viti Levu without reception, and we'd like to make Viti Levu profitable before we move on to Vanua Levu. But at the same time, we're just in the process of building a new transmitter for Desvoux Peak in Taveuni to help us reach a broader market.

"That will give us about 85% of the population, and there's very little question that a broader outreach is helpful to the population at large. All you have to do is visit a rural school to realize that. No books. Little concept of geography."

His CV, except for the three years in New Zealand, is mostly concerned with the Atlantic seaboard, up where they say 'hoose' and 'oot' instead of house and out. It was all very competitive, several different stations, where Clarke served in a variety of tasks: coordinator of programs, producer ("everything from farm shows to symphonies, kids shows to news and current events").

He went to a university at Dalhousie in Nova Scotia, all the while thinking he was going to be a physical education instructor, except that he got so involved with the university drama productions, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation offered him a job. Plus the fact that his father hosted a half-hour CBC program way back in the 40s . . .hell, he was destined for broadcasting. ("In New Zealand, program announcers never said 'hell' or 'damn' and there was a kerfuffle when a car ad used the word 'bugger.' Times are changing.)

New directions: He took a three-year break to help run a family textile business, which he realized, wasn't his cup of tea. But to do it, he got a certificate from Harvard University on international marketing, "concepts which I still use almost every day." He did his stint with TV marketing, too; national sales director for the Atlantic TV network in three maritime provinces. So, yes, he's qualified in just about all aspects of television.

New directions for Fiji TV? "Well, you have to remember that TV in Fiji is only five years old. We've got a lot of catching up to do. We're licensed to operate another pay channel and we intend to do that.

Clark came to Fiji in June of last year. He obviously hasn't forgotten his native land, because his Gorrie Street office is about the same temperature of Nova Scotia in December. He's expected to wade right in and get the job done.

"But we've got a very good team here at Fiji TV and our chief concern," said the chief, "is to introduce as much material as we can that is relevant to the country."

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Thursday, March 30, 2000 – Post-Courier)---The journalism department at the University of Papua New Guinea has reported an influx of students interested in taking up its courses this year.

The journalism department was shut down last year. However, the University Council reinstalled the department, but in a rationalized form under the university's restructure program.

Coordinator and lecturer Sorariba Nash said yesterday that a lot of students had shown interest in the courses and had been applying directly from the national high schools. Many students were also re-streaming from other faculties, he said.

Mr. Nash said that 80 students had enrolled for the course in mass communication and more than 50 students had applied to take up journalism.

He said a final list will be made today.

Mr. Nash said: "We were surprised by the number of students interested although there was no advertisement put out. A lot of students see the importance of the course and it's amazing to see students pile up in front of the office to sign up."

Journalism lecturer Bonney Igime said yesterday that the big problem they had was with manpower and a bigger lecture room to cater for the increased number of students.

Mr. Igime said a lot of students had shown a great interest in journalism and applied to take up the course. The journalism program at the University of Papua New Guinea remains the biggest and the oldest such school in the South Pacific.

The Pro-Vice Chancellor (academic affairs), Dr. Tom Wagner, said that the re-instatement of the department had been great and was welcomed by the university. Dr. Wagner thanked the Dean of Social Sciences, Lawrence Sausse, and the two lecturers who have been keeping the program running.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).



SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 28, 2000 – Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---A judicial review of an Immigration Department decision not to renew Fiji Times editor-in-chief Russell Hunter's work permit will end soon, the Fiji Times reports.

Yesterday, Justice Daniel Fatiaki heard submissions from the state and defense.

He will deliver a judgment on notice.

Queen's counsel Martin Daubney, representing Hunter, told the High Court that in deciding that the position of editor-in-chief be localized, Director of Immigration Navendra Prasad and Home Affairs Minister Joji Uluinakauvadra failed to find out whether there were reasonably suitable people locally available who could take up the position.

Daubney told the High Court the position was that of senior managerial level for which a lengthy period of training was necessary.

Title -- 2624 FIJI: Judge to rule on Fiji Times man Date -- 28 March 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pacific Media Watch Source -- Fiji Times, 28/3/00 Copyright – FT Status -- Unabridged

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