Honourable Prime Minister of Saint Lucia
DR. KENNY D. ANTHONY
Address to the AGM of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union August 27th 2003
CONVERGING VISION AND VALUES: Media, Communication and Regional
At its very root, regional integration is about the convergence of vision and
values: the vision of a collective destiny, and those values we share as
Caribbean people determined to be more than a geographic aggregation of
independent nation states.
At the very least, our integration is about the peaceful coexistence of
divergent perspectives, ideologies and cultures. In short, it is about people
understanding other people and choosing to collaborate and cohabit in ever
increasing degrees of proximity; physical proximity as well as a certain
proximity of thinking.
This is not to value uniformity over plurality; but to acknowledge that despite
obvious, possibly superficial differences, we continue to recognize the
quintessential similarities which bind us together as a single people in our
quest for a unifying Caribbean identity.
COMMONALITY OF CIRCUMSTANCE
In the same way that Karl Marx recognized that popular power and the collective
will required a commonality of perspective to be effectively mobilized, the
regional integration process requires a similarly shared perspective.
Information and Communication are the vehicles by which we arrive at that point;
that point where the collective consciousness, despite the isolation of
individuality, recognizes the common cause, and rises to a single, larger,
As caretakers of information and communication, the regional media is at the
centre of this process. They share the responsibility of educating the people of
this region about the commonality of our circumstances, the similarities that
bind rather than divide us, and the common solutions we might apply to our own
The issues are many and varied, from the everyday to the esoteric: poverty
eradication, adult education, HIV/AIDS, employment generation, economic
development, good governance, cultural and community development. These are but
a few examples of the common challenges we face, and the media has the
responsibility of exploring the problems, as well as showcasing solutions
wherever they exist. Throughout this region there are valiant models of success
crying out for equal recognition.
UPON THIS ROCK
On this rock of responsibility, media practitioners must etch their own
professional vision; their codes of conduct and standards of excellence; their
rights and responsibilities as seekers and traders of information, and as
keepers of a fine and delicate science. They must also envisage their unique
role in the construction of a Caribbean psyche.
In short, the regional media should be its own movement with an agenda which
promotes the convergence of vision and values within the regional constituency
that we all serve. In this way, practitioners will be preserving their own
economic space; creating market share for indigenous media product; and
reinforcing relevance in a highly competitive environment. Thus, the convergence
of vision and values can be our new protectionism; our new compact with each
other to create expand and diversify our domestic media markets
To be effective, this convergence must occur at several levels simultaneously,
but none more important than at grass-root level; in the hearts and minds of
Caribbean people where our past, present and future reside. Then might the front
line of regionalism advance over fertile ground rather than a wilderness
inhabited by fear, ignorance and distrust.
Conceptually, the integration front advances in three very specific cohorts:
People, Capital and Goods and Services. Since we began with the fundamentals of
human interaction, let us linger for a moment on the relevance of communication
to the movement of people. Let me however, preface my remarks with the concern.
As recently as July 31, 2003, the Association of Caribbean Media Workers found
it necessary to lament the tardy implementation of provisions for the free
movement of selected categories of workers. Among them, media personnel.
The provisions in question are enshrined in the logic of the CARICOM Single
Market and Economy, and are already approved, as confirmed in the communiqué of
the 24th meeting of the CARICOM Heads. I have little argument therefore when the
Association of Caribbean Media Workers writes as follows:
The ACM views this undertaking as a singularly important measure with
implications for the fostering of higher professional standards in the field of
journalism, enhancing the flow of news and information within the region and,
generally promoting the integration process…”
To turn and old legal phrase around: integration delayed is integration denied.
We must therefore move expeditiously to make good our promise regarding the free
movement of people. After all, the barriers to movement are largely man-made;
constructed by governments in the name of sovereignty and independence. Now,
economic forces dictate that interdependence is our inevitable fate. As such, we
must dismantle those barriers designed to thwart free movement.
At any rate, goods, capital and people will move; without or without official
sanction. Caribbean people are resourceful. We are survivors. We regard
Officialdom with healthy scepticism. We will move ourselves, our families, and
our possessions if we have to, in response to market forces. So, as a region we
have a choice: either we allow human talent to move freely within the region, or
face the prospect of our best minds and hands emigrating to greener pastures
It is in our collective interest to ensure that people have reliable economic
information and can move in response to real economic opportunity. Skills
deficiencies for one economy should represent employment opportunities for
another. Economic opportunities represent training opportunities for yet another
sector; and training translates into income enhancement, which translates into a
larger, more viable market for us all.
The opposite also holds. Without objective information, labour and capital
movement can be spontaneous and speculative. This results in instability and
unemployment, with attendant social and political repercussions. Thus, reliable
information and efficient communication are indispensable to accelerated growth.
MOVEMENT OF CAPITAL:
With respect to the movement of capital, a similar logic applies so there is
hardly any need to trace the argument again. Suffice it to say, as our economies
are increasingly engaged in services, particularly financial services, accurate
information and effective communication by the media are directly related to
issues of confidence and stability.
Like most economies in the world, stability is critical for growth. Stability is
a function of confidence. Confidence sustains our monetary systems, our capital
markets, and our investment environment. This is certainly not unique to the
Caribbean, but it is of special significance, precisely because our integration
process rests on the creation of a single economic space.
That single economic space requires not just information but complete
information of the type that inspires confidence and rational economic
decision-making. Such processes require more than superficial coverage of issues
and must avoid giving credence to media-hungry pundits making irrational,
irresponsible or sensational utterances.
Such issues require more than the “he said-she said” approach to news and
current events. They require the kind of enlightened and comprehensive debate
which the regional media alone the power to deliver and sustain. Let me go
further: an informed media has the right - and must exercise that right - to
place irrational and irresponsible pronouncements in their deserved context. The
media must draw confidence from its convictions, because it has a responsibility
to itself and to the public, to ensure that opinion is distinguished from fact,
and fact from fiction.
RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
If this requires more systematic - and often expensive - research and analysis,
so be it. Our media houses acting individually or collectively have the capacity
to develop storehouses of information from which to draw, and there is now a
healthy trend towards working with governments to improve information management
policies in the public sector.
The implication is that media practitioners must continuously educate their
communities as well as themselves. Throughout the regional community, we need
specialist skills beyond generic journalism. A healthy media must be competent
in matters of international trade, economics, law, art, health, business and
finance; to name but a few areas of specialisation. Only with such
subject-matter specialists at hand can the media help to sustain objective
debate so critical for informed decision making and for the sustenance of our
MOVEMENT OF GOODS AND SERVICES
The free movement of goods and services is relatively well advanced and
manifests itself in various regional trading arrangements. However, the details
of those arrangements are sometimes least known to those they are most likely to
affect. Regional producers, manufacturers, traders and consumers are less
informed than they ought to be on many subjects affecting their livelihoods.
There is a role here for the media to act both as catalyst and conduit in the
dissemination of trade related information.
Meanwhile, fundamental changes in the complexion of the regional media industry
will pose more new challenges. Firstly, rapid technological changes are
conspiring to blur distinctions between media formats. For example, digital
technology and the Internet are rapidly diversifying sources of information
worldwide. Secondly, the consolidation of private media ownership is changing
the communication landscape and the balance of power between consumers and
producers, and among producers themselves.
The market effects of these phenomena can be accepted as generally healthy.
However, as competition brings out the best in individuals it does so at some
cost to society. This is very evident in the broadcast sector where, public
broadcasting services are being overwhelmed by privately owned stations.
Moreover, the emergence of privately owned media empires changes the balance of
power within the industry, between producers and consumers, and between it self
and any regulatory system. That change poses for example conscious choices
between air-time devoted to pure entertainment vs. broadly public purposes like
We need to keep sight of the developmental and educational roles and
responsibilities of the regional media, recognizing a potent and tool, capable
of reflecting but also influencing society.
As such, strictly commercial objectives are not always compatible with public
objectives. The media, particularly television, represents not just a medium of
entertainment but a means of promoting social cohesion, particularly in times of
crisis and fragmentation. This role cannot be simply abandoned to market forces.
Public media space must therefore be preserved at select points across the broad
spectrum. This can be the result of enlightened programming policies within the
industry. It can also be approached via licensing and regulatory policies. At
any rate, there must be mechanisms to ensure that content is broadly
representative of the community, that access is equitable, and that coverage is
as close to universal as practical.
MEDIA AND LIBERALISATION
It is in this context that we must view recent pressures to liberalize the
audio-visual sector under the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS).
Media heavyweights like the US and Japan are eager to get a foothold in new
markets. As such, members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are being
pressured to make offers in respect of opening up their markets.
While the debate between the giants – the US, EU and Japan - does not affect us
directly for the time being, we should recognise the role of our regional media
in protecting our cultural diversity.
Our societal values are already under siege from powerful external forces. We
must therefore consciously preserve local programme content, and encourage
cultural expression and creativity in the media. This affects the livelihoods of
our writers, directors, producers and performers, all of whom are engaged in
building what has been identified as a major growth sector for the Caribbean.
Besides that, these are the people who permit the media to perform the most
important function of reflecting the community back to itself, helping to build
that commonality of perception mentioned earlier.
THE MEDIUM AND THE MESSAGE
Nevertheless, the consolidation of media ownership raises the important
question: whether those who control the medium should also control the message.
Within the regional entertainment sector we are already seeing the emergence of
media moguls who control both product and multiple media.
It is not good news for the region if the media evolution is biased away from
open models toward closed ones. Where in-house content is favoured over other
sources, we will be at a disadvantage. We will be losing market-share as well as
mind-share, as our children have fewer and fewer options over what to watch,
listen to and read.
Even the internet - the great leveller - is subject to ownership consolidation.
This is evident in the ownership of the Internet backbone linking major cities
in North America. It is evident in the control exerted by a handful of top
Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Thus the issue of control over access to users, and user’s access to content is
not going to go away. The battle for mind and market share is raging and network
operators are eager to gain control over each traffic type: web, email voice and
video. Cross-referenced by product, user type, and site address, tremendous
potential exists to thwart competition, diversity, dissent and freedom of
The fact remains that new technology can be used to defend powerful commercial
interests, or for universal access to open and transparent media spaces. Our
regional media is uniquely placed to shape that emerging future. They can defend
our collective interests by anticipating the danger of dominance, and help us to
avert the media marginalization that threatens.
As Caribbean people, we all share the responsibility of producing and projecting
things Caribbean; our vision and values, our products, our culture. The page,
the screen, the airways will not remain blank or unfilled. They will be
colonized. We can either fill them with wholesome images of ourselves or adopt
someone else’s image of what we should be.
If we accept that regional integration is rooted in the convergence of vision
and values, then the regional media’s most important role is to help engender
this vision of a collective Caribbean. Its most essential role is therefore, to
reflect the community back to the community.
This gives more meaning to regional integration than any treaty or protocol can
ever do, because it lays the ground for understanding, for the meeting of minds
and the laying on of hands. It is by seeing, hearing, reading about each other
that we come to greater understanding. We begin to validate not only our own
existence, but the existence of others occupying the same landscape. We become
conscious of the commonality of our circumstances; the shared challenges and
sustainable solutions. We become neighbours in a larger economic, political, and
cultural space. We grow in stature and confidence. Then the confluence of
perspectives, ideologies and cultures becomes the mainstream the integration
process and we begin to believe that our many constituent parts are indeed a
single, indivisible and wonderfully diversified whole.
I thank you.