Address by Prime Minister at Radio St. Lucia Visioning Workshop
Address by The Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony
To Radio St. Lucia Visioning Workshop
July 30th 2002. Cara Suites, Castries, St. Lucia
SALUTATIONS Chairman and members of the Board and staff of radio St. Lucia, Invited guests, particularly the media professionals, Other officials of government, Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I extend my own welcome as Minister responsible for Information and Broadcasting.
CITICAL CROSSROADS In recent times, we have arrived at the crossroads in the lives of the major institutions of this country when we all must make some major turns and difficult decisions. These changes are even more challenging when such institutions have become such a critical element of our lives, Radio St. Lucia is one such institution.
I have always maintained a keen interest in Radio St. Lucia. In spite of all the difficulties it has faced over the years, Radio St. Lucia, has shaped, and continues to shape, the daily routines, and the lives of every St. Lucian. Radio St. Lucia has been a central pillar of information and knowledge long before the advent of Cable Television and the Internet.
The process of restructuring upon which we have embarked is so delicate, but absolutely necessary. In this process of restructuring, we may lose some of familiar sounds and voices, which hum in our memories and which stir in our consciousness. However we must always be mindful that out of the disorder of change can emerge new faces, a renewed energy, and can give birth to new voices promoting some of the most deeply rooted values in our society.
We must be honest, and admit that we have not been able to maintain our past greatness because of the rapid onslaught of other media such as television and the internet. This is why we must all pause and take stock before we can chart the way forward. This is our essential mission today.
BACKGROUND Radio St. Lucia was established through the Broadcasting Act of 1974. Since its inception, there have been thirteen boards of management. In an effort to find solutions to the myriad of technical, administrative and programme issues, eleven studies have been commissioned resulting in reports with wide ranging recommendations for physical and institutional and financial development.
In the past two decades, the station has been plagued with numerous problems, many of them rooted in weak management, confusion over lines of authority, low revenue generation, lapses in creativity, and the inability of the entire team to remain focused on the mission and goals of the station.
It is refreshing therefore that we have reached the stage where some decisions have been made which will set the platform for the restructuring of the station. I commend the chairman and members of the current board for their commitment and courage. The success of the restructuring process will depend on their deep understanding of the demands of our people for reliable and practical information, and their creative responses to the economic climate in which they operate.
WHY RADIO ST. LUCIA The question is continuously being asked, why the government of St. Lucia should continue to hold on to Radio St. Lucia even when it has incurred exorbitant debts over the past decades?
Five years ago, the idea of full and complete privatisation of RSL to relieve the taxpayers of the burden of annual subventions and other subsidies was an attractive prospect. It was a time when the government felt that the privately owned media was capable of providing a quality of broadcasting which would meet the needs of the all the people of St. Lucia particularly the rural folk.
However it is now widely recognised that the privately-owned broadcast media has not lived up to public expectations. St. Lucia is still waiting for a quality of broadcasting where information is factual and reliable, and the entertainment is culturally relevant and inspiring. News has become a marketplace of political propaganda wrapped in sensational garb, and the distinction between fact and fiction has been blurred beyond recognition. Our media establishments, on a daily basis breach some of the basic canons of broadcasting, and continuously disregard their commitments to the terms of their broadcast licenses.
Indeed, I am convinced now more than ever before that government must continue to maintain an interest in local broadcasting. 1. Firstly, we need to maintain a public broadcasting system which will give extensive prominence to national issues without commercially influenced editorial decisions. 2. Secondly, our country needs a radio station which is sensitive to the information needs and language abilities of all St. Lucians. 3. Thirdly, we need an institution which will assist in the continued expansion of our democracy and our civic awareness and responsibilities. 4. Fourthly, we need a national radio station to serve as an incubator for national institutions like the Cultural Development Foundation charged with the mandate to develop the culture industry.
Radio St. Lucia continues to be the best vehicle which can reflect and manifest our commitment to these ideals.
RSL’s ADVANTAGE For the past three decades, hundreds of St. Lucians have remained loyal listeners to Radio St. Lucia because RSL is the only station with a true commitment to public service broadcasting. Their loyalty is also based on a perception that RSL is an authoritative source of information. But these are not the only attributes on which the station should seek to build its future.
There are two other factors, which give Radio St. Lucia a competitive edge in the local commercial broadcasting industry. The first is its possession of AM transmission equipment with the capacity for broadcast to most of the countries of the Caribbean. With transmission power boosted to 20,000 kilowatts, the signals of Radio St. Lucia are received as far north as Tortola, and the U.S Virgin Islands and Guyana in the south.
In the past, Radio St. Lucia has served as a main communication link for some Caribbean countries during and after the passage of hurricanes. The frequency of music requests from the other islands to their relatives in St. Lucia, via Radio St. Lucia is a simple testimony to the fact that as a communication link, Radio St. Lucia on AM is unsurpassed.
The second resource which the station possesses is an extensive archive of the oral history of St. Lucia. This vast storehouse includes records of the political and social developments of the island from the period of colonial administration in the early 1960s to the present. A comprehensive social and political history of St. Lucia in the post-statehood era cannot be adequately written without consulting this archive. Added to the wide range of official speeches, are recordings of local folk festivals, calypso tents and calypso finals and special news features.
With the careful management of these resources, and the development of strategic partnerships with other local media and quasi media entities, RSL can position itself to offer a unique product which will have appeal to the widest possible audience in the Caribbean.
It is my view that with a symbiotic relationship with government agencies such as the National Televisions Network (NTN) and the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF), and non-government organisations such as the Folk Research Centre (FRC), Radio St. Lucia can develop both forward and backward linkages in the creation of information products in the culture and history of St. Lucia, for distribution on the new media formats now available.
The inability of the station to realise these goals in the past has been attributed to weaknesses in its sales and marketing department as well as an ad hoc approach to programme development. Too often many programme initiatives have started but cannot be sustained.
It is important therefore, that in our attempt to shape the new station we must take these factors into consideration.
MODERNISATION OF THE BROADCASTING LANDSCAPE In the new liberalised local and global environment, the general policy of the government is to create the climate for the media to operate efficiently and with editorial freedom and responsibility. Over the past five years, government has worked deliberately and consistently to modernise the broadcast landscape. It has always been our view that while we promote the liberalisation of all sectors of the economy, this has to be done in a manner which always protects the weak and the vulnerable. The approach to the development of the media is no exception. In this context therefore the following have been undertaken.
1. The enactment of new telecommunications legislation which will improve of the management of broadcast frequency authorisation, and treating the airwaves as a valuable economic resource to be exploited for the benefit of the people of St. Lucia and the OECS. 2. The amendment of the Broadcasting Act to allow for the regulation of the broadcasting industry by an independent authority. In the new legal environment RSL will be subject to the same levels of scrutiny as all other radio and televisions stations. 3. The development of clear procedures for the processing of applications for broadcast licenses. All these applications are handled by the Department of Information Services, with recommendations on spectrum management coming from the National Telecommunication Regulatory Council – The NTRC. 4. The revision of the existing commercial broadcast licenses. The provisions in the old license have become outdated and will be amended to protect the public interest and to reflect new standards in broadcasting and advertising.
THE MISSION We have recognised that in all of the developed countries of the world, public service broadcasting is being promoted as an essential element of the strategies to promote good governance and democracy. Radio St. Lucia must be a station which assists the people of this country with information and skills to fashion creative responses to the issues which confront them locally and globally.
Radio St. Lucia must set new standards in production aesthetics and journalism. It must promote a type of entertainment which is rooted in the region’s culture and our own understanding of other cultures and of our selves. In order to be both a leader and an example, the station will operate under the existing licensing arrangements as all other commercial broadcasting entities in St. Lucia, and will be expected to uphold all the provisions of the license. Further, RSL will be expected to lead all the electronic media in the implementation of the provisions and recommendations of the national standard on advertising.
In this restructuring exercise, we must ensure that the station recaptures some sections of the audience which has drifted reluctantly to other stations and also regain the confidence of the advertising community. The programming must be exciting enough to appeal to young people who continue to look out of the region for their standards in entertainment.
With the broadcast via the Internet, Radio St. Lucia is transmitting to the world in real time. Therefore we will inform and be influenced by debates on HIV/AIDS, WTO, regional integration, crime and world travel. We must be accurate. Our products must be clearly identifiable and attractively packaged. Newer and higher standards must inform our efforts. We must ensure that in this new environment of unlimited choice, Radio St. Lucia must come first.
In closing let me express my wish that this workshop be productive and realise the goals you have set for yourselves. Let me also take this opportunity to thank all those persons who have been part of Radio St. Lucia, as we seek to take off into a new direction. Your work, your talent and your efforts have left their mark on all of us. St. Lucia will always be eternally grateful to you. Let us hope that you continue to take a keen interest in the future growth and development of RSL and that you continue to lend your support and understanding as we seek to fashion a flagship broadcasting institution which will assist in the creation of the new St. Lucia which we are all seeking to build.
Finally, let me express that hope that very soon we will no longer hear the refrain that RSL is restructuring, but we will see the sign in front of us etched in our consciousness – “Radio St. Lucia, Restructured and Doing Business”.
I thank you.
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