A GIS NEWSFEATURE
October 10, 2001 --
Whenever you switched on a television in Saint Lucia up to three months
ago, there was a 95 per cent chance you would’ve been greeted by some type of
American programming. It isn’t so any more, thanks a government initiative to
bring Saint Lucians alternative, relevant television through the
newly-established National Television Network (NTN).
pervasiveness of American television isn’t just confined to Saint Lucia. It’s a
Caribbean-wide issue compounded by the fascinating appetite which the average
citizen seems to have for soap operas, sit-coms, and other productions which
glorify the American way of life. Communication specialists, cultural activists,
some economists and other scholars do see a problem, however. They contend
overexposure to American norms and values is undermining the Caribbean way of
life by subliminally influencing how our people think and fuelling unrealistic
expectations which put additional pressure on the region’s fragile economies.
operated by the Government Information Service
(GIS) on Channel 2 of the Cable & Wireless-run cable TV service, is a
response to such well-documented concerns.
On air since the middle of May when test transmissions began, NTN is
initially offering four hours of programming daily from 6 to 10 pm. The exciting
mix of educational and informative programming which places emphasis on domestic
happenings and issues, is then repeated around the clock until 6 p.m the
following day when a new broadcasting cycle begins. The plan is for NTN to
evolve gradually into a full-fledged 24-hour operation over the next five years.
we speak of “alternative” programming, we mean that what you will see on NTN is
not what you will get on the other channels which offer mainly American fare,”
explained Embert Charles, Director of Information Services. “When we speak of
“relevant”, we mean programming which allows Saint Lucians to see images
of themselves, as well as other people in the Caribbean and elsewhere who are
facing similar challenges in our common quest for development.”
added: “Most importantly, we are seeking to empower our people through relevant
information, not only about what government specifically is doing on their
behalf but also about the many complex international issues we face as a nation
and region, so that we as Saint Lucians are in a better position to make wise
choices as we search for solutions to common problems. We believe that this is
very important for our development”
Being an arm
of GIS, NTN naturally will give priority to providing information about
government’s policies, programmes and activities in keeping with the mandate of
GIS. NTN, however, goes far beyond government. Reflecting its designation as a
“national” medium, NTN is more about involving communities around the island and
giving them a voice in pursuit of their development aspirations. Communities,
therefore, can look forward to receiving significant coverage of their various
events and activities on NTN. The type of coverage previously neglected by the
NTN is also
about encouraging and nurturing local television production talent. Once
independent producers come up with programmes which satisfy the criteria of NTN
for broadcast, they will have access to the airwaves. Already, one such
production house, Visual Domain Ltd., has seized the opportunity to get its
Tourism Guide programme on air. And it has received rave reviews. To further
diversify its output, NTN also plans to source relevant material from other GISs
in the Caribbean, regional television stations like the Caribbean Media
Corporation (CMC), private TV production houses like Banyan in Trinidad, and
international organizations like the United Nations and the Commonwealth.
our early test transmissions, we broadcast the Windrush series of programmes
looking at the contribution of West
Indian immigrants in the United Kingdom and the conditions they faced on arrival
there in the 50s and 60s,” said Principal Information Officer, Roger Joseph. “We
had very positive public feedback on this as well other programmes including one
from Banyan featuring an interview with the late Lord Kitchener and an old film
by Derek Walcott called the Rig.”
“This type of spontaneous public response demonstrates there is
demand out there for this type of programming and we are pleased to serve the
public in this regard,” added Joseph who has been overseeing the smooth
implementation of the NTN project.
months of successful testing, NTN is getting ready for its formal launch. Saint
Lucia has broken new ground in the Caribbean with NTN, taking a new approach to
public service broadcasting to provide a solution to the longstanding serious
imbalance between foreign and local information and images on domestic
television screens. It’s a project in which Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Kenny D.
Anthony, as the minister responsible for information, has taken keen interest.
Dr. Anthony sees information playing a pivotal role not only in cultivating an
improved relationship between Government and Saint Lucians but also in helping
Saint Lucians to develop a clear perspective of themselves in relation to the
rest of the world.
a small, developing society, with scarce resources, St. Lucia needs a healthy
balance between the necessity for public service broadcasting and the inevitable
growth of competitive, commercial, advertising-based mass media,” said Dr.
Anthony of the role of broadcasting in contemporary society at the opening of
the new complex of the HTS broadcasting company three years ago. “To inform,
educate and entertain; to build a healthy national consciousness; to inspire a
positive sense of shared national purpose; to create necessary ethical
sensibilities - surely, all these must be among the purposes of the broadcasting
profession,” he added.
NTN will strive to achieve these high standards and a whole lot more. The official launching is set for October 14, 2001.