OUR CARIBBEAN: Oh for a more vibrant media
AS AN independent nation of 48 years, Barbados is currently struggling, against the odds, for economic survival.
This CARICOM founder member is doing so with dignity as it tries to avoid spreading social problems that increasingly threaten the rule of law and erosion of its political sovereignty by the rich and powerful of the global community.
The scenarios of plummeting living standards for the expanding poor; rising unemployment in the public and private sectors that also point to declining militancy of trade unions amid customary media-oriented rhetoric; the mounting cost of living – much of it associated with imported food and services – have similarities with a number of other CARICOM states.
This, of course, offers little if any solace to the poor, in particular, who see themselves as having become poorer, or now numbered among the growing unemployed and struggling to cope with a constantly rising cost of living.
All of this, mind you, amid the politickings of two traditional dominant parties: the governing Democratic Labour Party and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP). They are now more intensely engaged in what the iconic Caribbean novelist and social commentator George Lamming had otherwise piquantly associated with traditional five-year parliamentary “cockfights” in our region.
Constitutionally, such an electoral battle is not due in Barbados before February 2018. The outcome of the February 2013 poll was a pretty close one in terms of votes polled. And it’s often recalled that the governing DLP secured 78 566 votes (51.28 per cent) to the BLP’s 74 027 (48.32 per cent) for the 30-member House of Assembly where it has a two-seat majority.
Declining morality and increasing aping of foreign lifestyles among the youth and adults; indiscipline, vulgar rudeness and violence at schools have evolved as the norm that also afflict some other CARICOM states.
But this scenario understandably prevails to the deep grief of an older generation of Barbadians who cherish the preservation of civilised behaviour and moral values that have pleasingly distinguished them over many years.
As its contribution to national developments on Barbados 48th anniversary of Independence, the last Sunday Sun produced a mega 40-page “special edition” with thematic coverage on “Guardians Of Our Heritage”. Among the collection of quite noteworthy contributions by now retired experienced journalists, among them Charles Harding and Adonijah, there was an intriguing article featuring the views of two other retired Barbadian journalists under the title: Media Falling Short Of Mandate.
The article expressed the views of the Nation’s first editor, Carl Moore, and that of Glyne Murray, a former journalist and high commissioner to Canada. They are evidently not comforted by the media’s contributions as “guardians of Barbados’ heritage”.
Their “hope for the future” in this regard depends, they feel, on more enlightened and responsible roles to be demonstrated “if the Press plays its part . . .”.
Well, this columnist, as a regional journalist and long associated also with the Nation Publishing Company, feels it may be useful for more than the regular readers of the Nation newspapers should the renowned long-serving Editor-in-Chief, Harold Hoyte, now in retirement, as well as current Editor-in-Chief Roy Morris, also share their views on the seemingly unflattering perspectives of Moore and Murray about the media’s role in “maintaining and expanding the Barbadian heritage”.
After all, Barbados is a country with largely one daily newspaper as well as just one television enterprise. The latter is the state-owned Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Its offerings of news and commentaries are often quite deficient in coverage of national, regional and international developments. But this may not be due to lack of either professional competence or commitment.
However, compared with the flow of diverse news and commentaries, as well as entertainment, from the multiplicity of print, radio and television media within CARICOM – Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana being examples – CBC needs a competitor.
Barbadian entrepreneurs should consider enhancing access to competitive print and electronic media before Barbados is ready to celebrate its half-century as a Caribbean nation state.
Barbados’ current media landscape, with an unrivalled Nation and a seriously hampered lone television enterprise in CBC, seems out of sync with today’s culture of mushrooming print and electronic media in a rapidly changing regional/international media environment and the torrent of global information and entertainment flow.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.