Prime Minister's Address at the Official Launching of the National Television Network - October 14th 2001
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,
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
A NEW TIME HAD COME
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.
INITIATIVES BY GOVERNMENT
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
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.
WHY ANOTHER TELEVISION SYSTEM?
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.
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:
to the calls for greater balance in the media.
use of the new technology to guarantee wider public participation in national
opportunities for other groups of people to speak on all issues.
information, which would assist our country to adjust to the demands of
globalisation, without suffering marginalisation.
A COMMITTMENT TO PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING
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
The main objectives of NTN are:
provide alternative programmes in public television.
increase the volume of local programming on television.
provide opportunities for local producers, communities and organisations to tell
their stories through the broadcast medium.
serve as a feedback channel for public sector agencies and national
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:
provide, through their programming, a reference point for all members of the
public and to foster social cohesion and integration of all individuals, groups
provide a forum for public discussions in which as broad a spectrum as possible
of views and opinions can be expressed.
broadcast impartial and independent content.
develop pluralistic, innovative and varied programming, which meets high ethical
and quality standards, and not to sacrifice the pursuit of quality to market
develop and structure programme schedules and services of interest to a wide
public while being attentive to the needs of minority groups.
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.
contribute actively through programming a greater appreciation and dissemination
of diversity in our heritage.
ensure that programmes offered contain a significant proportion of original
productions, especially feature films, drama, and other creative works.
extend the choice available to viewers and listeners by also offering programmes
and services which are not normally provided by commercial broadcasters.
PROMOTION OF OUR CULTURE.
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
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
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
MORE SUPPORT TO LOCAL PRODUCERS.
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.
PRINCIPLES TO HONOUR.
We are committed to promoting a climate for
operation of print and electronic media including the Internet, based on the
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
THE CHARGE TO GIS.
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
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.
© 2012 Government Information Service. All rights reserved.
Read our privacy guidelines.