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Barbados Media: make, break or ignore

13 Apr

These seem to be the options that the media currently have before them in Barbados. There are those that would argue that the media has an exceptional role to play in the political development of Barbados. In Barbados there are two newspapers, two radio stations and one television station that have enough reach to disseminate the messages of politicians to the people of Barbados.

Barbados has seen the advent of what are called “call-in programmes”. These programmes started out with the notion that the voice to the ordinary people of Barbados. It is clear that the owners of the radio station with the most popular “call-in” programme has allowed it to be hijacked by people who were not only expressing their personal views but that were scripted by political parties. Now one might argue that this is politics afterall and that all parties in Barbados could have their own scripts prepared. This is of course not the same position with respect to the moderators who have in recent times declared their party affiliation. Allegiance is not of the view that the members of political parties should not be moderators, however it is of the view that these individuals should declare their party affiliation. This becomes necessary in the name of transparency, which they themselves say they wish to promote.

The lone television station in Barbados has been over many years used as a tool in order to promote Government projects. There is however now a blurring between what can be defined as the promoting of Government projects and what are being considered “political broadcasts”. The showing off of Government’s accomplishments has always been the great advantage that politicians in Government have. There must however be some concern expressed if these broadcasts are used for direct canvassing purposes, thereby amounting to political broadcasts.

The Internet has now provided a means by which concerns can be expressed by some of the smaller political parties as well as by individuals. However it is clear that these avenues are not as far-reaching as the traditional media – not as yet any way.

Much depends on whether the media in Barbados believes that it has a duty to be fair and balanced. Individuals in senior positions in media houses in Barbados have expressed their liking for one politician or the other and has openly supported them using the media house. This admission seemed to have given them the ultimate justification for giving their “favourite politician” more coverage than the opposing candidate. Certainly there must be something fundamentally wrong with this approach to journalism. Going down this slippery slope our “independent” pollster Peter Wickham has identified his preference for the political leadership in Barbados.

Barbados media has a long way to go in giving everyone a fair shake, but we know that improvement in the media is a part of the developmental process in which this country must engage. So perhaps we need to give them some scope to grow. We hope that they will do better in the future. It is critical to our democracy – balanced coverage and access by all parties is what is being demanded.