2 Feb 2023

Broadcaster sacks CEO, calls for probe into grants

10:56 am on 2 February 2023
The FBC, Fiji's government-owned broadcaster.

The FBC, Fiji's government-owned broadcaster. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

The Fijian Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) board has sacked its chief executive officer and called for an investigation into the company's spending of government grants totalling over $FJ93 million since 2008.

In a statement, FBC chair Ajay Amrit said, "as we have no confidence in the current CEO Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, we have chosen to legally terminate his employment status."

FBC's board met with the company's senior management last Friday to get an update on the company's operations.

Amrit said during the seven-hour meeting on Monday: "it became quite obvious that without the Public Service Broadcasting cash injection from government over 10+ years, the limited liability company would be classed as technically insolvent."

"Of greater concern to us was that we could not see a strategic plan going forward that clearly identified how the commercial business of FBC would be self-sustaining," he said.

The FBC leadership has solely depended on government revenue to continue its operations for the past decade and the new board intends to change that, he said.

"We are putting in measures to clearly separate Public Broadcasting from Commercial Broadcasting for both radio and TV," he said, adding that by doing that FBC "will have more accurate financial information on the long-term viability of the commercial transacted businesses."

Review into grants

Amrit has confirmed that Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and deputy PM and finance minister Biman Prasad have agreed to undertake a review into the government grants provided to FBC.

"The Board will work with staff and management to ensure that FBC is a financially viable and self-sustaining commercial business, while honouring its PSB responsibilities."

Amrit has also confirmed that the board has called for an investigation to look into the PSB fee of over F$93,782,800 provided to FBC since 2008, when Sayed-Khaiyum was appointed as CEO.

"Accountability and transparency has been brought to the Parliament many times over the past few years and it saddens me to have to confirm reports are true regarding the purchase of a vehicle for the CEO that has cost the company nearly $200,000."

"My board and I consider it highly inappropriate and this certainly isn't the direction the new government and the new FBC board want to go in, this is extravagance at its greatest," he said.

Amrit also claimed that Sayed-Khaiyum earned more than the country's prime minister and government ministers, which has come as a "shock" to the board.

FBC's chief financial officer Vimlesh Sagar will be acting as the company CEO until the board makes a new appointment.

RNZ Pacific's attempts to get Sayed-Khaiyum for comment have been unsuccessful.