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Fiji Sun 20th Anniversary: Tale Of Two Newspapers

Mr Patel also worried that the Fiji Times would become a dominant monopoly with the struggling Daily Post near to collapse. He and others who supported him thought - like the founders of the original Fiji Sun - that a Fiji Times monopoly would not be good for Fiji.
30 Sep 2019 17:23
Fiji Sun 20th Anniversary: Tale Of Two Newspapers
Adi Mere Timaleti reads the Fiji Sun.

The iconic Fiji Sun brand is a tale of two newspapers – the old and the new. Both successful.

The original Fiji Sun started from headquarters at Marks Street on October 8, 1974, to coincide with Prince Charles’ visit.

The three founding shareholders all were committed to giving Fijians an alternative to the then take-it-or-leave-it Fiji Times monopoly.
They were:

  • New Zealand media executive Philip Harkness, whose family had owned the Waikato Times, one of New Zealand’s top provincial newspapers. He had an island in the Mamanucas. He saw the opportunities in the Fijian market for an alternative to the practices of the Fiji Times.
  • Canadian actor Raymond Burr, who owned an island in Lau and had other investments in Fiji. He had also questioned the Fiji Times monopoly and saw the need for another daily newspaper more open than the Fiji Times;
  • and Hong Kong newspaper tycoon Sally Aw Sian, a friend of Mr Harkness and a strong believer in a free and vibrant press.

Some at the Fiji Times predicted that the Fiji Sun would not last long. They were proved badly wrong. The original Fiji Sun began as an afternoon newspaper, hitting the streets at midday in main centres in time for workers coming out for lunch. It brought a fresh, new look to Fijian newspapers and quickly became profitable.

Later it went to a morning paper after power supply problems in Suva made on-time afternoon production difficult. It went head to head with the Fiji Times. It did further damage to the Fiji Times, which was slow to change.

In its heyday, the old Fiji Sun had unrivalled sports coverage and strong local news content. It earned the tag the “people’s paper”.

It launched Fiji’s first Sunday paper, introduced street sellers, went out to meet advertisers rather than people having to come to it, and ran high selling special editions on events like the Hong Kong Sevens and Muhammad Ali title fights.

The current Publisher/CEO of this Fiji Sun, Peter Lomas, and Managing Editor Nemani Delaibatiki served together as editors in the old Fiji Sun and played key roles there.

They were brought in to the new Fiji Sun to bring their wealth of knowledge, skills and experience. They guided the new Fiji Sun to become the most preferred newspaper in the readership stakes.

The old Fiji Sun had closed in 1987 after the military coups because it would not accept the censorship rules imposed by the military regime. The Fiji Times accepted these and was allowed to publish. Twenty years ago saw the rebirth of the Fiji Sun brand but under new ownership and management.

Its establishment was driven by the visionary late C.J. Patel group managing director Sundip Patel.

Mr Patel also worried that the Fiji Times would become a dominant monopoly with the struggling Daily Post near to collapse. He and others who supported him thought – like the founders of the original Fiji Sun  – that a Fiji Times monopoly would not be good for Fiji.

The new Fiji Sun was born at Amra Street in Walu Bay, Suva. Again, as it happened with the old Fiji Sun, some at the Fiji Times said the new Fiji Sun would not survive. Like any business, it was tough in the beginning. But it has grown from strength to strength.

This was especially after Mr Patel persuaded Mr Lomas to join in 2009. Mr Lomas, in turn, persuaded Mr Delaibatiki to come back from New Zealand where he was working as training editor on the Waikato Times. Today the new Fiji Sun is bigger, brighter and better. It is the preferred newspaper, recent surveys show.

In 20 years it has overtaken the 150-year-old Fiji Times.

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