Radio monopoly, state owned TV, still a major part of the problem of broadcasting regulation
Stabroek News
April 28, 2002

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Dear Editor,

A healthy and interesting debate has grown over the issue of the regulation of broadcast content on private television broadcasting. The protagonists all have reasonable justification for some of their positions. One of the issues which has not been properly ventilated, however, is the role of state control of the media in distorting the application of rules and the conceptualisation of reforms.

In Guyana, radio is a state monopoly and the state owned television station though not a monopoly succeeds in behaving like a government and ruling party mouthpiece. Even when we concede the necessity for government to have reasonable access to the media for development and educative purposes, the editorial practices of the state broadcasters are unfair, biased and unhealthy. Persons wising to express views which the governing party does not like have access only to the private television stations. Private television may with some justification be said to have preserved some semblance of diversity and democracy, particularly in political matters.

Any attempt to reform or control private broadcasting without reforming the governing party’s political monopoly of radio would be grossly unfair and obscene. The state media does not report the views of opposition parties, they rarely attend the press conferences of opposition parties and only report the views of non-government entities by first of all stating the governing party’s response.

The issue is not one of ethnicity or standards but one of balance and fairness. Nor is the problem one which suddenly appeared in 1992. It is without putting too fine a point on it blatant hypocrisy for people to quote the work of the media reform committee’s recommendations call for standards to be imposed on private license holders without at the same time quoting the unanimous call of that same committee for fairness in any vestigial state owned media. In my view, the greatest offender in terms of the issues of fairness and balance in Guyana is the state.

Let us not beat up on ourselves too severely. Our private broadcasters are far more restrained generally speaking than anything which originates in the so-called developed countries. I have seen material in Europe and North America including material intended for children which far exceed in risk and taste anything our local broadcasters would dare. The selection of available material for piracy by the local stations is very conservative and restrained.

A petty controversy about a beauty contest is hardly the occasion for us to become so warmed up. There are more important issues to be addressed. Unless and until the government gets its act together, the situation will not become any clearer.

Yours faithfully,

Deryck M Bernard