Sunday, November 25, 2012

A media analysis of 2012 IDC coverage in Ba: Questioning the questionable media treatment of the event

A media analysis of 2012 IDC coverage in Ba: Questioning the questionable media treatment of the event

Thakur Ranjit Singh,
Media Relations Limited Auckland

October 2012 (Vol 18 (2) of Pacific Journalism Review, a journal of Pacific Media Centre (PMC) at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) runs my article, titled Fiji’s coup culture 1987-2006: A media perspective. In that article I raise some pertinent issues relating to action or rather inaction and deficiency in Fiji media between 1987 and 2006 that led to so many coups to happen in Fiji and so many false prophets masquerading as a saviours of i- Taukei. I questioned Fiji media’s inability to question issues, raise intelligent and informed discussions and raise knowledge about what people needed to know. In effect, I branded Fiji media of pre-2006 as sleeping on the job, especially The Fiji Times. I raise a rhetoric question; would we have been able to avoid political instability in Fiji if we had more educated, effective, neutral and responsible media?

The main livelihood and economic lifeblood of Ba - sugar mill and sugar industry.
 Coincidently, I raise the same issues when discussing soccer fiasco and the abandoned final at Inter-district Soccer Tournament (IDC) at Govind Park in Ba on the night of 14th October, 2012. While other lessons may be learnt or forgotten, I raise the standard of sports reporting both by Fiji and visiting overseas media, especially from New Zealand. Most media personnel covering IDC in Ba, Fiji over that IDC  weekend were either from Suva or belong to teams Ba have defeated, hence they carry animosity or dislike towards the most successful soccer giants in Fiji’s history – Ba soccer team. Posting comments on my Facebook, I commented that the biggest enemy for Ba Soccer Team is its success and popularity.

There has to be something unique in the smell of soils in Ba that it keeps on producing  excellent soccer sons.
 In the finals, Ba appears to have played against 15 players - 11 from Suva team and other 4 the match officials, including a controversial and questionable referee. Two goals against Ba were disallowed in the final. Nobody questioned those. Why these media people are harping about a decision that appeared questionable to the officials and those watching the game. Fiji has no video refereeing; hence human factors, likes, dislikes, discrimination, envy and infallibility do come in. Mai TV’s journalistic standard comes into question as well when the commentator and technical teams over and over played what appeared to be a controversial last minute goal, taken from a fixed camera from only one location. However, Mai TV failed to do the same with two controversial goals that were NOT awarded to Ba. We seemed to have had an extremely partisan media covering IDC. It would help sports immensely if media personnel covering such games, many of who are not qualified match officials, displayed some semblance of media neutrality and dig deeper on issues that thwart sports development in Fiji.

Police and Fire preparedness and pro-active action prevented further trouble during IDC final on 14 October, 2012 at Govind Park, Ba, Fiji
 I commend Fiji Football Association for making a rationale and expedient decision in abandoning the match and summoning the help of Police and fire brigade in case of crowd getting rowdy. Some may see that as an overreaction but thanks to the immediate and effective action and show of force by authorities that prevented more adventurous spectators from taking advantage of the mayhem that was waiting to happen. Had our police and authorities being that effective and vigilance on that fateful 19th May, 2000, perhaps the riots in Suva City and political instability could have been avoided when the police were caught with their pants down due to ineffective leadership twelve years ago. The immediate action and show of force during the trouble at the ground bolstered our confidence in the police force. At the same time it showed good effective leadership of FFA to make timely decision to diffuse a volatile situation. Perhaps this may be a learning curve for sports in Fiji where perhaps consideration may be given to introduce video-refereeing in some crucial games or where too many questions, as in this case, have been raised about standards of refereeing.

While I agree that the referee’s decision is final and walkout should not be condoned, these should be viewed in proper context and perspective. The situation had been made very explosive, even provocative and frustrating for Ba fans who see their team short-changed in a habitual fashion by an apparently partisan decision -making by match officials. This had left Ba fans very frustrated. Apart from two goals not allowed in the final match, there were other questionable decisions against Ba, and media never came on board to question such supposed injustice that was damaging sports development in Fiji.

The slogan of the soccer champs - an envy of other districts. Their achievements can hardly be matched by other teams
In light of general standard of media in Fiji and ethnic media in NZ, this IDC also revealed lack of media’s ability to grasp the technicalities of the game, question any anomalies and report constructively without taking sides, to improve the standard of the game. They should have raised issues about standard of refereeing and resulting frustration that resulted in the "hated" team walking off the field in the final. They may have influenced improvements and avoided abandonment had they been more questioning from day one. Were the media impartial and neutral with a view of reporting anomalies to improve the standard of refereeing? I believe not, as the reporters came with their blinkered and partisan view of teams they supported, or the team (s) they hated. Did they question other questionable decisions of the referee and match officials to prevent the situation that escalated? Why were so many goals by very popular and envied team Ba disallowed in so many cases? 

If one thing this IDC match reflected is the inefficiency and failure of the local and overseas media to be neutral and questioning. Journalistic standards went down Ba river, they all became armchair critics without much knowledge of the technicalities involved and became little Gods. So how can they question decision, many times without the full knowledge of ALL facts? They just shoot off their mouths and shoot the photos without full facts. In sports, a picture can lie, if the other factors linked to the picture are not taken account of. A ball in goal may not be a goal if it was taken in offside situations. Ba had some three such goals disallowed. We do not have journalists parading those photos. How come some media are showing photos of a disputed goal in the final, telling us to believe it was a LEGAL goal, without full facts, and confusion it may have been an offside?

In the past, Fiji democracy has been let down by a partisan, uneducated, poorly trained and inefficient media. Same seems to apply to their game coverage of IDC soccer tournament at Goving Park in October, 2012.


(About the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is an independent media commentator and heads Media Relations Limited, a communications and media promotions company. While he hails from Ba, his analysis was more to prompt media to assert a responsible and neutral role in sports reporting that develops sporting standards in Fiji. A separate story of a partisan Fiji Times journalist, extracted from social media (Facebook) comments will be presented later.)