Forward to the future

Guyana Chronicle
July 2, 2000

IT IS good to know that with the dawn of the 21st century, Guyana is finally beginning to take the first steps away from the old wild, wild west that its television industry has taken root in.

Last week saw TV broadcasters coming together with government and other officials in a one-day symposium aimed at trying to chart the way forward.

It's been a long time coming and it is now time to move on away from the world of piracy that does the good name of the country no good.

By some counts, there are 23 TV `stations' in this country of less than a million souls and that has got to be a world record of some kind.

And all are pirates, paying scant attention to what are standard practices in the industry around the rest of the world.

The government has to take some blame for the state of affairs, mainly because of what Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, in referring to another matter, last week said was its tolerance of this "abnormality".

This `anything goes' syndrome spawned its own ethics or lack of it.

As a result, some so-called TV houses have blossomed forth into news broadcasters with the same attitude towards pirating other people's property - no regard for the rules.

It was with this need for some kind of regulation in mind, clearly, that President Bharrat Jagdeo, speaking at the symposium Wednesday pointed to the dangers of what has been allowed so far unchecked.

Mr Jagdeo noted that "hate speech" and, on some occasions, blatant racism, is being propagated under the guise of freedom of speech.

He didn't single out TV but he didn't need to.

The crux of the issue lies with constituting a regulatory body which will allow persons to be "comfortable" and be fair in enforcing broadcast laws, he said.

He said he believes that broadcast legislation is as vital as financial sector, agriculture and mining legislation in the development of the nation.

So the drive now has to be to get it in place and bring order to a landscape that has been without laws for too long.

Cinema owners have been crying out for help, claiming they are at the mercy of the TV pirates who sometimes ruthlessly screen movies at the same time that cinemas, which pay to get the rights, advertise these for showing.

This hardly happens elsewhere but has become common in the wild west here. And it is only one of the problems.

Information Minister Moses Nagamootoo, in opening the symposium last week admitted, "we could have advanced towards our objective if we had had a greater appreciation of the work that preceded ours, and if criticisms had been dealt with in a more enlightened way."

"We too needed to end our own Cold War.

"So if I say today that there is greater resolve to create a broadcasting law in Guyana, it is an acknowledgement of greater collaboration, a tendency to accommodate, and a new spirit of inclusiveness", he noted.

The fact of the meeting last week gives comfort that the differences can be bridged and that all concerned can work towards bringing Guyana's television sector out of the dark ages and into the modern world.

Forward to the future.

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