Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Croz Walsh: Radio NZ Interview.

Croz Walsh
continues his dialogue with "Nights With Bryan Crump" 1/25/2010.

Posted on MP3 player below.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Letting The Cat Out Of The Bag- Gross Media Bias In The Pacific & Geo-Politics.

Happy New Year to SiFm readers.

As a indication of the power of blogs, this interesting posting from Bronte Capital, reveals its role in uncovering a Ponzi scheme lurking deep within Australia's privatized Social Security (Superannuation) fund.

To start off the 2010 blog sesssion with a bang, SiFM will re-visit subjects and concerns raised from 2009 posts. The starting point of 2010 posts will be from an earlier SiFM post titled "Clenched Fist, Open Hand-The Curious Case Of A Faltering Forum In The Pacific".

The coverage of Fiji media restrictions has drawn a lot of criticisms from regional news organizations lately, clamoring on to the media veneer of independence. This particular issue was raised by a recent posting by Croz Walsh's blog with respect to a NZ Dominion Post editorial.

SiFM has repeatedly pointed out the collusion between some Trans-Tasman media organizations and their respective Governments, pro-actively skewing, slicing and dicing facts to suit their given agenda in the region, at the given time.

The outcome of the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations and the recent legal tribulations of Julian Moti; has now become the embarrassing crown jewel of this Trans-Tasman belligerence; forever squandering the trust built up over past decades.

Based on this postulation of Trans-Tasman media collusion, it does not surprise many regional watchers, that this subject of media bias(out of bounds for some) have been pointed out, alluded to, outlined by many objective and independent regional researchers. Sadly, the mainstream media outlets have buried the lead on these insidious developments within the Pacific.

Sanjay Ramesh's recent opinion piece does touch on that segment. Partly related to the media bias, is the use of Australian and New Zealand radio broadcasts to the Pacific region. Unfortunately, the Trans-Tasman radio outreach, is perceived in the region, as an extension of these re-occurring themes of neo-colonialism.

Radio Australia's F.M transmission were touted in a blog posting from Radio Netherlands. It appeared that Radio Australia had used Tebutt Research, a firm based in Suva, Fiji to measure the local weekly audience listenership of ABC’s Radio Australia, across 5 Pacific capitals- a feather in their proverbial cap.

No Money, No Funny

Tebbutt Research was also once used extensively by the Fiji Times to gauge public perception on the issue of the day.

This controversial practice had raised many eyebrows and is similar to the issue of credit ratings agencies colluding with Hedge Funds to ensure a favorable rating. The poll or rating company are paid to provide a service.

As a service provider, the polling organization or ratings agencies are well aware of who the pays the pied piper. To guarantee that this revenue stream is kept intact, these ratings/polls seek blessings of their client, whoever that may be, prior to its publication.

First, Tebbutt is not a scientifically based opinion poll because it fails to highlight the margin of error of their surveys. Salon posting offers a basic explanation for Polls and Margin of Error.

Creatively and deceptively enough, it was these same skewed talking points, initially raised in a Fiji Times article; which are then polled on by Tebbutt.

The following excerpt is a Fiji Times article, using a Tebbutt poll published in 20 November 2006.

The excerpt of the FT article:

Fiji impasse to be solved without trouble: Poll

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tebbutt/Times Opinion Poll

Dates: 14-15 November

Sample: 1018

Method: Personal interview

Question: Which of these statements is closest to how you feel about the current situation?

  1. - I am very nervous, and it worries me a lot that there will be trouble;
  2. - I am somewhat nervous, and have some concerns that there might be trouble;
  3. - I am not worried at all, and I am confident it will be resolved without any trouble.

Conducted by: Tebbutt Research on behalf of Fiji Times

The majority believes the current standoff between the military and Government will be resolved without trouble, according to the latest Tebbutt Times Poll.

A total of 1018 adults were surveyed for the latest Tebbutt Times Poll on 14 and 15 November 2006 and were asked which of three statements they most identified with either I am very nervous, and it worries me a lot that there will be trouble, or I am somewhat nervous, and have some concerns that there might be trouble, or I am not worried at all, and I am confident it will be resolved without any trouble.

Overall the Tebbutt Times Poll showed that 54 per cent believe there will be no trouble in the resolution of the standoff and are not worried at all.

Of the remainder, 28 per cent feel somewhat nervous and are concerned there might be trouble, and 18 per cent claimed they were very nervous and worried there will be trouble.

Fijians are the least likely to be nervous, and the most likely to have confidence in a trouble-free resolution.

A total of 62 per cent of all Fijians surveyed claimed they were not concerned at all, while 26 per cent of Fijians were somewhat nervous and 12 per cent were very nervous.

In contrast, one in four Indo-Fijians (25 per cent) were very nervous, 29 per cent were somewhat nervous and 45 per cent were not worried at all.

Digging further into the Tebbutt Times Poll data revealed that there was no difference in any segment of the Indo-Fijian sample but there were differences in the Fijian sample.

Among Fijians, an inverse relationship is seen between nervousness and age, meaning that as age goes up nervousness goes down.

Specifically, while 18 per cent of Fijians aged 18 and 29 years are very nervous, only 11 per cent of 30 to 44 year old Fijians are very nervous and just 5 per cent of 45+ year old Fijians are very nervous.

The Tebbutt Times Poll data also showed that those living in Suva were more concerned and nervous overall than those living in the West.

Overall, while 50 per cent of Suva residents are not worried at all, this confident group is 63 per cent of the sample in the West.

Interestingly those in the West were also more polarised in their views, with 22 per cent being very nervous and 63 per cent being not worried at all, leaving just 16 per cent sitting in the middle claiming to be somewhat nervous.

The Tebbutt Times Poll is collected in strict accordance with the global polling guidelines published by ESOMAR the world association of professional market research organisations.

Question Total Fijian Indian Other Suva West
I am very nervous, and it worries me a lot that there will be trouble 18% 12% 25% 17% 17% 22%
I am somewhat nervous, and have some concerns that there might be trouble 28% 26% 29% 28% 33% 16%
I am not worried at all, and I am confident it will be resolved without any trouble 54% 62% 45% 55% 50% 63%

The issue of Radio Australia transmitters closure and subsequent removal, were zealously covered by the Australian and New Zealand outlets; playing the innocent victim, as well as the used and abused media freedom card.

Psychological aspects like false scarcity, social proof, perceived value are intrinsically related to the use of opinion polls, skewed news articles, which share a common thread used by pitch-men in TV infomercials. The industry of "Pitching" was covered in a recent "On The Media" (OTM) article. The podcast of the OTM program is posted in MP3 player below.

A recent opinion article by Australian academic and former Fiji resident, Sanjay Ramesh, actually underscores that particular point of biased media in Fiji and dove tails with US academic Bruce Buene de Mosquita's ideas featured later in this post.

The excerpt of Ramesh's article:
Lament over Democracy in Fiji

Sanjay Ramesh
January 4, 2010

A recent wave of articles, mostly from New Zealand and Australian media, criticized the direction taken by the Fiji authorities following the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution in April 2009.

These articles should be seen as yet another example of "parachute journalism," where journalists are sent to political trouble spots to compile informed analysis when they have little understanding of the socio-cultural context. On the face of it, it is claimed that Fiji is under a dictatorship, but Fiji had gone through this path before, so why overseas media and their willing interviewees are surprised and shocked by the unfolding political events in Fiji begs belief.

In 1987, the democratically elected multiracial government led by an indigenous Fijian doctor, Timoci Bavadra, was deposed in a bloodless coup by Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka, who was quickly promoted to the rank of Brigadier General by the late Governor General of Fiji, Ratu Penaia Ganilau. In 1987, Indo-Fijians were a majority in Fiji, and they complained to the international community that an elected government was ousted at gunpoint and democracy was destroyed by indigenous nationalists.

However, the same international community, including Australia and New Zealand, remained silent, and policy makers in these countries actually accused the Indo-Fijians of undermining indigenous interests, thus supporting the nationalist position.

At best, both Australia and New Zealand allowed skilled Indo-Fijians to emigrate, and this trend has continued since. Fast forward 20 years later, and the indigenous Fijians who benefitted from the 1987 coup suddenly found themselves, like their Indo-Fijian counterparts in 1987, under the gun of an indigenous military leader Frank Bainimarama, who became fed up with indigenous nationalism and the associated cronyism and patrimony.

The very people who supported the destruction of democracy in favor of indigenous rights in 1987 are now champions of democracy and rule of law, while Indo-Fijians—reduced from close to 48 percent of the population in 1987 to just little under 37 percent in 2006—have transformed into avid supporters of the "undemocratic" actions of the commander.

The contradictions in both these communities are caused by the complex trajectories of history that Australian and New Zealand media are refusing to comprehend and policy makers overseas are adamant to acknowledge.

Hot on a mission to sensationalize and exaggerate Fiji's political situation, regional media played a major role in the 2000 coup where anti-Indo-Fijian arguments were published in the local press, unchallenged by the Australian and New Zealand journalists, as indigenous thugs held an elected government hostage for 56 days and unleashed unprecedented terror and violence against Indo-Fijians living in rural Fiji.

With unrestricted access to the 2000 coup leader, George Speight, local media created a misguided view that indigenous nationalists were once again reacting to the tyranny of Indo-Fijians and, in particular, their leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.

In 2000, indigenous Fijian traditional institution—for example, the Great Council of Chiefs—was divided along indigenous confederacy and provincial lines because indigenous cultural logic dictated that chiefs from the provinces involved in the Speight coup supported them, despite the fact that rule of law had been effectively compromised.

The Australian Government, which has now taken a moral position on democracy and is deeply worried about the impact of a coup culture in the South Pacific, remained an impotent regional observer, along with its counterpart New Zealand, as Fiji descended into anarchy.

The political establishment that came into power following the Speight coup continued with the agenda of the indigenous nationalists. In 2003, reports surfaced that the commander of the Fiji Military Forces, Frank Bainimarama, had become increasingly uncomfortable with the elected government, in particular with its policies to appease indigenous militants.

A series of events started over a three-year period resulting in the December 2006 coup. Initially, the military government attempted to work within the 1997 Constitution, but this position became untenable following the judgment by the Fiji High Court that the 2006 political order established by the 2006 takeover was illegal.

Overseas media alleged on many occasions that Commander Bainimarama executed the coup to scuttle the investigations into the deaths of eight Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit soldiers who were allegedly involved in a mutiny at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Suva in November 2000. These allegations, while sounding quite serious, ignored the fact that there was a bounty on the head of the commander in 2000 for refusing to acquiesce to the demands of the indigenous chiefs who supported the Speight coup.

It was a dangerous situation of kill-or-be-killed. Supporters of the commander rounded up and interrogated the mutineers and their associates, and some interrogations resulted in death. Human rights conventions abhor deaths in custody, but following the events of 2000, there were deep divisions within the army that had the potential for prolonged violent internal conflict.

Moreover, following the 2006 coup, the military discovered a number of irregularities in the manner in which the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) conducted its business with respect to indigenous land. Much has been written and discussed on the rate of return on indigenous land leased by Indo-Fijian farmers, but a greater and a more interesting story relates to the way elected indigenous nationalist governments conducted business with overseas commercial interests with total disregard for indigenous land rights.

As a result, the military government "cleaned up" the NLTB. There are endless volumes of information compiled by the Fiji Islands Independent Commission Against Corruption that point to past indigenous Fijian leaders exploiting indigenous Fijians and their resources for personal gains. The details of official corruption in Fiji make for very dry reading and do not fit into the agendas of Australian and New Zealand media and, as a result, we never hear about them, except claims that "corruption and mismanagement is often overstated by the military to support their own agenda."

Overseas media are interested in understanding the resilience of indigenous Fijians who have yet to rebel against the Bainimarama regime. The media hopes to overturn an authoritarian system and in its place establish a nationalist indigenous government based on ethnic division as it existed from 1970 to 2006. There is no choice for the Indo-Fijians who are currently supporting the Bainimarama Government because, on the face of it, the Bainimarama regime has offered a "non-ethnic political solution" while the indigenous nationalists want continuation of "positive discrimination," as stated in the deposed government's political manifesto of 2006.

The question is still asked as to why the Fiji regime has suspended freedom of the press indefinitely in Fiji. The answer is quite simple.

The press has, in the past, attempted to instigate ethnic hatred and destabilize the Fiji government. Overseas-owned newspapers in Fiji have continuously emphasized the need for quick elections and democratic rule, but they have yet to make a case for addressing deep-rooted institutional and ethnic problems in divided communities.

What could be done to cement multiethnic democratic values does not fit within "commercial parameters" of contemporary journalism. Overseas media have little idea of the socio-cultural history of Fiji, including the emphasis on communal politics established by the British colonial rulers to support their indirect rule of the colony.

While many indigenous soldiers have sacrificed themselves for the Commonwealth and the empire and continue to volunteer to fight in failed states like Afghanistan and Iraq and replenish war-weary soldiers from "democratic" nations, there is lack of appreciation on the part of Australia and New Zealand journalists for the complexity of Fiji's multidimensional problems.

Past indigenous Fijians as well as Indo-Fijian leaders have failed Fiji because they were interested in protecting their own communal hive. Since independence of Fiji in 1970, Fiji has oscillated between ethnic conflict and conflict between elected and appointed entities, and these conflicts are yet to be resolved.

To argue that democracy is a "magic bullet" that will solve Fiji's problems is naïve. Previous initiatives to move Fiji towards a non-ethnic model were comprised by indigenous nationalist assertions, and the current regime should be allowed to implement its reforms without interference.

Sanjay Ramesh is an adjunct research associate in transforming cultures at the University of Technology in Sydney and is currently completing a research degree on inter-group conflict in Fiji at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney.

Send comments to sanjay.ramesh@uts.edu.au
The contenscious issue of regional media bias and false reporting addressed in the above opinion piece by Sanjay Ramesh, among other notable moderate opinions, is buttressed by a revealing Broadcasting Green Paper on Radio transmissions to the South Pacific region by New Zealand and Australia and their 5 year spectrum outlook 2010-2014 (posted below).

Letter_PM_AU-NZ_RA-RNZI_v301 (PDF)

The following images (posted below) are screen shots from the above mentioned paper, that features technical and geo-political issues; undoubtedly a pitch to increase the respective government budgetary allocations to Radio NZ and Radio Australia.

One particular interesting concept of game theory in geo-political forecasting, raised by a US Academic Bruce Bueno de Mesquita was presented in a recent World Affairs Council program. (video posted below).

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita at the World Affairs Council 10 26 09 from Its Your World on Vimeo.

Much of the ideas presented by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, have wider regional applications, or had been demonstrated recently by one form or another. Particularly, when these issues dove tail neatly into alternative academic perspectives from the Pacific area.

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