In the aftermath of a short and intense political campaign which ended Tuesday, 15 January 2008, with victory for David Thompson and his Democratic Labour Party (DLP), we continue to worry about the perennial problem of an ineffective media in Barbados – read Barbados Free Press. The willingness of our media practitioners to sway and buckle to political and other pressures should be of concern to defenders of our democracy. It is not acceptable that as a country we should pride ourselves on a high standard of education, yet our media practitioners continue to demonstrate that they are devoid of any courage by demonstrating their spineless disposition. We have written extensively about the importance of the role of the Fourth of Estate – enter keywords ‘fourth estate’ in our search area on the top of the page.
The time has come for media houses in Barbados to stop failing the people and to awake from their slumber.
There is a saying that people get what they deserve – well, something like that anyway – and in very much the same way that we are able to send a clear message every five years to the political directorate, so too we need to send a message to the owners of the Fourth Estate in Barbados. The only way we can expect balance reporting from our media houses is to speak-out against the inequities when they occur, embarrass them with our public comment, let them suffer by our lack of financial support, let us write to stakeholders such as the unions, and to their important clients and international watchdog agencies to help agitate for justice. The actions we can take as civic minded Barbadians are limitless.
Recently we have learned that the Nation newspaper have increased their advertising rates effective 1 January 2008. This increase comes against the back drop that the Nation Publishing Company is a very profitable company with a healthy market penetration in Barbados. Why is it that we are allowing this newspaper to disrespect us in this way? They continue to renege on their role as an important member of the Realms of the Estates, yet as citizens we pay them for doing so. Their commitment to improve shareholder value is laudable. Why should we blame them if they practice the free market concept of charging what the market will bear. The Starcom Group of companies is quite boastful when they publish the results of their Systems Surveys. Starcom Network currently dominates the media market in Barbados and command unrivaled market share. They are currently lobbying to get a TV license.
Certainly our Fair Trading Commission would have something to say about this if they apply the 40% rule.
The Media Houses in Barbados don’t care about freedom of expression, they care about making money. Any noises which they make in this regard must be labeled as lip-service only. Let us remember that Starcom Network is a publicly traded company trading under the name One Media based out of Trinidad. They are currently pursuing an acquisition strategy which will ultimately see news dissemination in the Caribbean consolidated in the hands of a narrow interest. The much respected Harold Hoyte and Sir Fred Gollop should be called to account for selling out Bajan majority interest in Starcom Network to fatten their bank accounts. Who are they fooling by spouting the rhetoric that a pan-media company is a visionary strategy. Give us a break!
In the same way that Starcom Network publicly asked former Minister of Tourism, Barney Lynch, how he acquired his perceived wealth, we, the public, should ask people such as, Vic Fernandez at Starcom, Harold Hoyte, retired publisher at the Nation and others, how they acquired their wealth. (It was only a short time ago Vic was the anchor for CBC TV news.) We are not seeking to sully the reputations of anyone. We simply want to highlight that a few people in our media houses have benefited tremendously from the support of Barbadians over the years. It is time some of these ‘fat cats’ in the media start to give something back. We have still not forgiven the Nation newspaper for feeding the behaviour which ultimately led to the departure of Roy Morris from that company!
The media practitioners in Barbados should be ashamed that after benefiting from our rich education system they do not have the will or the common sense to appreciate the benefit of coming together. Why is it that the Barbados Association of Journalists (BAJ) has been dormant for so many years? We will warn the media houses in the same way that we warned the previous government. There is a desire for change which is starting to gather momentum in our country. The Barbados Labour Party underestimated the power of the people. We hope that the learned people of our Fourth Estate can take heed.
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