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Under Scrutiny: CBC for sale?
By Stephen Alleyne
It was never my intention when I started writing this column in 2002 to massage the ego of any individual or spin a yarn for any political party in Barbados; thus, in the ensuing 10 years I’ve remained on the straight and narrow. Fairness, accuracy, objectivity and balance are the qualities I bring to bear on any article appearing in this space. I call a spade a spade, and I will not resile from that position.
About 8:00 p.m. on Monday, August 27, 2012, an e-mail which said: “The entire speech delivered by The Prime Minister The Right Hon. Freundel Stuart QC MP to the DLParty Annual Conference yesterday will be shown tonight on Channel 8 at 9:00 PM (sic),” was sent to my mailbox by someone associated with the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
Spontaneously, I replied: “Why? I don’t think this is a good decision. Yes, he’s Prime Minister, but he spoke in his capacity as president of the DLP. It was a party conference and not a national event.”
To this the sender retorted: “I just saw the note. I guess they feel it newsworthy. LOL (laughing out loud)?”
Accordingly, just after 8:00 that night the entire speech was broadcast on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation’s Channel 8.
I’m going to challenge anyone in Barbados who heard or saw the Prime Minister’s address to tell me what was newsworthy about it, other than the suggestion that the interim report of the judicial managers on CLICO was stolen and circulated unlawfully and that the report impugned no-one in the DLP. Surely, these are issues that could have been extracted from the speech and treated as separate news items on the Evening News. Outside of that, the presentation, to my mind, was the typical battle-cry of a leader rallying his troops to the fray, and not disseminating information for general, public consumption.
For too long the two major political parties (DLP/BLP) when in office have been using the state-owned CBC as a propaganda machine and political platform. This nonsense must stop! No wonder one of the few amendments to the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation Act since its coming into operation in 1963 was in 1999 when the Minister responsible for broadcasting was empowered to give the corporation directions in respect of the policy it should follow in the performance of its functions under the Act and mandating it to comply with those directions (Section 9A).
I cannot think of any compelling reasons other than the promotion of the DLP which would have caused the person or persons at CBC responsible for programming to decide to air the PM’s entire speech. The decision was grossly outrageous. Firstly, the speech was streamed live to the DLP website where it has been saved. Secondly, the general public was invited to the DLP Headquarters to hear the speech.
The opinion of the populace is seldom, if ever, heard on the issue of the abuse of the CBC by successive DLP and BLP governments, and each party always seeks to justify its abuse of the entity by the non-argument: “you did it too.” To argue that someone has done something too as a means of justification for doing the same thing is never a sound argument. For example, some years ago I attended a lecture on the dangers of smoking which was delivered by one of Barbados’ foremost surgeons. There was no secret that the lecturer at the time was a chain smoker; and, during the break he could not resist the urge “to pull one”. I recall smokers in the audience concluding that despite what the doctor had said in his lecture, there was nothing wrong with smoking, because the doctor was smoking, too. The flaw in the argument, what logicians call tu quoque (thou also), is aptly illustrated here as readers know that science has proven conclusively that cigarette smoking is dangerous to human health. There is something patently wrong for any political party in Barbados to use the CBC for partisan political purposes unless done through a paid programme.
We as electors must stop the politicians from insulting our intelligence and demand that they do the things that are important to the development of Barbados as an economy and a democracy. And the CBC in its present form certainly adds no value to Barbados as an economy or a democracy. It is time this entity is sold for the best price available on the open market. Hence, I am waiting patiently to see which of the two political parties is bold enough to insert in its manifesto that: “The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation will be offered for sale on the open market within one year of attaining office.”
(Stephen Alleyne is an attorney-at-law and former member of the Royal
Barbados Police Force. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)