Management reshuffle at Fiji TV after Sevens World Series dispute

Fiji TV’s deputy chairman of the board, Gary Callaghan, has resigned while chief executive Tevita Gonelevu and head of content Tanya Waqanika have been dismissed following the dispute surrounding the commercial broadcaster’s coverage of the Sevens World Series rugby union tournament.

World Rugby, the global governing body for rugby union, lifted its rights embargo on the Fijian broadcast feed for the series at the weekend after suspending its rights deal with Fiji TV earlier in the month. World Rugby initially said it would block the feed after Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama imposed the ‘Television (Cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Decree', under which the tournament’s matches must be shared with other broadcasters.

Fiji TV director Ioane Naiveli told the Fiji Times newspaper that the board had discussed management changes in an effort to secure an operating licence of longer than six months for the broadcaster.

“Fiji TV's licence expires at the end of the year and now we can go to government and say we have made changes to management and, hopefully, get longer term licences,” Naiveli said. “We need Fiji TV to survive. Once the company survives, employment of its staff survives, so does their salaries. We have been getting a contract to broadcast for six months. We need to dialogue with government and get longer term licences.”

Gonelevu has been replaced by head of news and sports Geoffrey Smith while content manager Karen Lobendahn has succeeded Waqanika.

Opposition party MP Bill Gavoka said that the management changes had been politically motivated. “It's very evident that the heavy hand of the state is behind all this,” he said.