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International Monitoring Group Warns About Proliferation of Talk Shows in the Caribbean

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005 - An international media monitoring group has warned that there are dangers for radio stations in the proliferation of talk shows in the Caribbean, as they negatively affect the quality of broadcasting and sometimes cause the stations to become vulnerable to punitive legal action.

In its just-released World Press Freedom Review, the International Press Institute (IPI) made the observation regarding the state of the press in the Caribbean for the year 2004.

Reporting on the report, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) quoted the IPI as saying last week: “The continued growth of ‘talk radio’, to an extent, contributed to a democratisation of news and opinion, but at the same time threatened to have a negative impact on the quality of broadcasting by displacing the more expensive programmes based on fact-based, investigative journalism.”

According to the IPI’s report: "Indeed, the increased broadcasting of unsubstantiated accusations and rumours invokes real dangers by making radio stations vulnerable to punitive legal action and, more dangerous still, by creating the potential for media outfits to become embroiled in violent struggles for political power."

Media observers note that similar concerns have often been expressed here regarding the information disseminated through “live” talk shows on local radio and TV stations.

The local observers have from time to time complained in the press that some talk show hosts tend not to show much concern about research, verification of facts or investigation of allegations.

There have also been complaints that ill-informed guests on air, or callers to some shows, are often allowed to malign or impugn the character of persons, especially politicians and Government Ministers, with little or no restraint or caution by the programmes’ hosts.

Government and ruling party officials here have often been criticized by some hosts of being hostile to or planning to muzzle the press.

However, government officials and politicians who have had to resort to the courts often claim it is the only recourse they have in a situation where talk show hosts openly engage in clear struggles to alter the balance of political power in the name of fair comment, press freedom, freedom of information and freedom of expression.

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