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Prime Minister's Address at the Official Launching of the National Television Network - October 14th 2001

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Governor General Dame Pearlette Louisy, Members of Parliament, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, senior public servants, staff of the Government Information Services, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

During the past four years, the government of St. Lucia has made more than a determined effort to facilitate the development of the media in St. Lucia, and create a level playing field for privately owned media to operate side by side with government owned media. We have granted major concessions to companies engaged in the print media, radio stations, and small emerging production companies whose business is to stimulate locally produced programmes for radio and television.

In addition, we have always understood that the public must have access to a wider range of information through the ever-expanding electronic media.

While we have been pro-active in this regard, government has noted that there has not been the proportionate increase in the variety of the content disseminated to the general public.

There is a very disturbing “sameness” in the large volume of imported entertainment programmes on both radio and television. The media is bereft of educational programmes and features, which challenge the intellectual and creative capacities of our people. It is common to hear the same calypso, or pop song being played on at least three radio stations about the same time on the same day.

Much of what exists today in St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean, is the direct result of major policy shifts by governments in the region.


About a decade ago, in the heat of the liberalisation of markets all over the world, private sector organizations, non-governmental organizations and some community-based groups called for governments to divest state owned media enterprises, and allow the private sector more freedom in the media landscape. Governments acquiesced, and restricted their involvement to official government media such as the divisions of information services.

Most Caribbean governments, which owned radio and television stations, either restructured these operations or provided new mandates for these enterprises to be self-sufficient and operate like businesses.  Others, like the government of Jamaica opted for full divestment, and the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC), which was an integral part of the daily lives of many Jamaicans, made its final sign off on a cloudy Friday afternoon four years ago. A new time had come.

This era of the dominance of privately owned media, which continues to this day, has been characterized by the rampant use of the media as platforms for the propaganda of political and economic interests. It is not uncommon for the media to generate public debate on a national matter based on opinions, which are not founded in fact. We have also seen the rapid spread of questionable practices of reporting, where “eyewitnesses” replace reporters. There seems to be little appreciation for any sense of balance.


Despite these aberrations, we are the first to state that the media like any other sector should manage itself. Government too, has had to make adjustments, to cope in an environment that is unyielding and competitive.

Media and Communications training remain a top priority in the list of manpower training of the government. Additionally, a grant has been made available to the St. Lucia Media Workers Association to implement its training programmes. If the Association feels that it is compromised, Government may decide to make that sum available to assist local producers in the creation of indigenous programmes.

In addition, government changed the legal framework for the operation of the state-owned Radio St. Lucia. We have ensured that there is broad representation on the Board of Management of the radio station. A new expanded website has been launched, with accurate and timely information on public sector operations, and led the government and people of the OECS region in the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector.


Some interests, particularly the private sector, continue to ask, why a new television broadcasting system at this time?

The costs for the operation of this new television system on cable are minimal. In our case, these include the purchase and maintenance of new equipment, some of which would be required by the Government Information Service in the execution of its normal duties, and the minimal charges for the acquisition of additional programming from overseas government and non-government organisations.

In addition to the employment potential, which I will address a little later, the economic benefits far exceed these costs. In the past public sector agencies have not been able to effectively get their messages out because of cost constraints, and restrictions of airtime available to the Government. With the establishment of NTN, there will be more time available for the promotion and public education on the work of all public sector agencies.

In spite of the increased investment in the information services, government must continue to listen to people and provide the communications channels, which will facilitate good governance. This means that government must:

1.      Respond to the calls for greater balance in the media.

2.      Make use of the new technology to guarantee wider public participation in national development.

3.      Provide opportunities for other groups of people to speak on all issues.

4.      Share information, which would assist our country to adjust to the demands of globalisation, without suffering marginalisation.


NTN was born out of the need to satisfy the public hunger for more educational programmes, for more meaningful and fulfilling entertainment, and for more local programming in general. It is also intended to provide more accurate and timely information on the operations of public sector organizations and the achievements of the various ministries of government. The establishment of NTN signals the commitment of this government to public service broadcasting.

The main objectives of NTN are:

1.      To provide alternative programmes in public television.

2.      To increase the volume of local programming on television. 

3.      To provide opportunities for local producers, communities and organisations to tell their stories through the broadcast medium.

4.      To serve as a feedback channel for public sector agencies and national organisations.

We are aware that the media environment has changed significantly in the past two decades. And there is the continuing challenge for public service institutions to justify the public funds allocated to them. It is interesting to note that large sections of populations in the region and around the world still tune into to public service programming. It was reported that in 2000, public service broadcasting entities, retained forty percent of the audience share in each of the five big television markets in Europe.

I want to propose that the operation of the NTN in particular, and other media in general, be viewed within the context of some of the same principles set out for public service broadcasting in Europe and around the world. Among these principles are:

1.      To provide, through their programming, a reference point for all members of the public and to foster social cohesion and integration of all individuals, groups and communities.

2.      To provide a forum for public discussions in which as broad a spectrum as possible of views and opinions can be expressed.

3.      To broadcast impartial and independent content.

4.      To develop pluralistic, innovative and varied programming, which meets high ethical and quality standards, and not to sacrifice the pursuit of quality to market forces.

5.      To develop and structure programme schedules and services of interest to a wide public while being attentive to the needs of minority groups.

6.      To reflect the philosophical and religious beliefs in the society, with the aim of strengthening mutual understanding and tolerance and promoting community relations in our societies.

7.      To contribute actively through programming a greater appreciation and dissemination of diversity in our heritage.

8.      To ensure that programmes offered contain a significant proportion of original productions, especially feature films, drama, and other creative works.

9.      To extend the choice available to viewers and listeners by also offering programmes and services which are not normally provided by commercial broadcasters.


In pursuit of these goals, the NTN will continue to provide live or delayed broadcasts of events such as the regular sittings of the Houses of Parliament, press conferences with ministers of government, celebrations of independence, Emancipation Day, National Heroes day, and national cultural festivals such as the flower festivals, Jounen Kweyol and carnival.

While we are focused on the promotion of our culture and the images of our people in the Caribbean and around the world, we will not imprison ourselves within a myopic vision of our own heritage, while the world turns around us. Therefore, NTN will promote the appropriate programmes, to encourage broad and informed debate about the widest range of issues from health to crime prevention, from tourism and the natural environment to the global economy, and from industrial relations to sports and human resources development.

The commitment to live broadcasts of government and non-government activities must not be seen simply as a public relations exercise. While this is a necessary element of any government operations, we also believe that the live broadcasts will give to the public information, which is unedited and free of all the innuendos and comments of the presenters in the media.


One of the main principles of operation of NTN is the collaboration with local producers to provide the content to supplement what the Government Information Service produces. In doing so, we will encourage new production companies not only to display their talent but also to earn a living. There will also be opportunities for the employment of all levels of creative workers including scriptwriters, researchers, models and other talent and technicians. 

We envisage that there will be growth in the entire media production sector as the NTN is best placed to broadcast education programmes and public service announcements with the repetition required in public awareness campaigns.


We are committed to promoting a climate for operation of print and electronic media including the Internet, based on the following principles.

  1. A liberal environment for the ownership and operation of all media enterprises.
  2. A body of laws and regulations, which continue to allow freedom of expression and the basic right to information by all sections of the society.
  3. Respect for the collective and individual cultural, social and political traditions for our society.
  4. The establishment of funds for the creation of new television programmes and training.
  5. Mechanisms, which will allow public comment and action on the operations and content of the media.

In keeping with the policy of this government for the protection of the consumer in all aspects of economic and, social life, the National Television Network, NTN, will be subject to the same critical appraisal of the policy makers and regulators, as far as dissemination of correct information is concerned. We are mindful of the need to protect the consumer from the wanton broadcast of images and information, which may be offensive to our sensibilities as individuals and as a nation.

Some of you who followed the television coverage of the aftermath of the dramatic destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, may be quietly asking yourselves, where are all those dead bodies, some mutilated in the desperate leaps to safety? Why are we only seeing dust, concrete and steel? The lesson there is quite simple – that even in the United States with its extremely liberal climate for dissemination of information, major broadcast networks recognise the need to observe some of the fundamental conventions of broadcasting, which revolve around the respect for human life and in this case, death. There are lessons in there for our broadcasters.

While the government of St. Lucia will not promote the control of information except in cases of national emergency or where national security interests are at stake, we must ensure that the terror of misinformation, uninformed editorial judgment, and the abuse of helpless individuals and organisations, does not become part of this new climate for free expression.


I commend all those local media practitioners who have made an effort to uphold the principles of good journalism. I also congratulate the staff at the GIS for their unswerving commitment to professionalism. Even so the GIS staff must continuously evaluate their work and provide the public with the opportunities to analyse programming and make suggestions for improvements. The staff of the GIS must not become immune or afraid of criticism. There is not room for self-righteous behaviour in the media.

The charge to the staff of GIS is to maintain the high editorial and technical standards, which they have set for themselves, and to remain focused on the mission of NTN which is  “to increase public knowledge, understanding and debate on the nature and operations of government and public sector institutions, and the creative responses of the various publics to the challenges of life in St. Lucia”.

In closing, I am appealing to all community organisations and groups to make full use of the opportunities which NTN offers to tell your story, share our culture, nurse our aspirations, express our hopes and dreams, manage expectations in a world that is complex and frightening.

I urge you to maintain communications with the staff of the Government Information Service about activities in your communities. The NTN and the GIS have planned a series of community based workshops which will address some of the main issues related to the role of the media, and share specific skills in media production.

In this climate of liberalisation, we can comfortably say that there is a public service television, which will meet the needs of the people and tell the world of our aspirations. We are, all of us, the guardians of this new child, nurturer of this young idea, the National Television Network.  Yes, NTN, that’s right, our channel.

It now gives me great pleasure to activate the logo to officially launch the National Television Network, NTN.


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