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Create synergy between state, private media

Monday, October 26, 2015

Constructing a programming, news and current affairs agenda for a state-owned television, radio and social media station would be a major challenge to a board, management and a professional core of media workers. This, the third and final in the series of columns on state-owned media, throws out suggestions to Minister Maxie Cuffie and his government, said to be interested in transforming the media house owned by the people and institutions of the country into something of value.

Already the column has argued that a quality public service information and entertainment-based media house is a needed institution to inform and cultivate a society capable of taking on the challenge of political, economic and social independence. 

It is an informational challenge that has not been responsibly undertaken in the post-Independence era. The British made it something of a requirement to receive political independence that there be established government electronic media. Privately-owned media have grown up and expanded since the National Alliance for Reconstruction government (1986-1991) began granting licenses. However, that was done without some over-arching philosophy and framework for media in general. 

Political parties in government have simply captured state-owned assets and sought to utilise them for their benefit. The society then and now has operated on the notion that the marketplace should control all. But that has not been the case for the British and the USA, the models we like to ape after.

The previous columns have also made the point that the kind of informed society that would be capable of perceiving the need to transform the colonial economic forms of production to achieve the objective of diversification needs to be exposed to quality information.

The columns have also pointed out that it is only when people and institutions in a society and economy are duly informed and conscientised would it be possible to produce goods and services that could attract attention in the global market place. How is a society strung out on bacchanal and obsessed with race and colour and other forms of mindlessness, including killing each other on the road and in gang warfare, going to produce to capture the attention of consumers at a higher level of consciousness?

The argument has also been made that a state-owned media as prescribed would serve as a training ground for journalists, producers, storytellers, cultural artists, editors, camera and radio technicians and other professional staff to develop their output to achieve quality standards.

To that end, the establishment of a broadcast authority to guide standards is absolutely needed. It must not be a government-controlled authority but rather one which would be designed by institutions and people of the country. As pointed out last week the right of people to communicate on such media would be a foundation principle to guide programming content.

Research, reflection, analysis and quality production values and people involvement would produce the kind of content that would be required; the nonsense talk, political biases and race-baiting would be left to others. The environment as described above and in two previous columns would be the ideal one for the training an induction of reporters, producers, script writers, camera operators and radio technical staff.

There must be a stipulated period during which the state-owned media would need financial support from the government and the institutions to achieve financial viability. Mandated conditions and objectives to be met for the board of directors and senior management to be achieved must be established. So too must there be devised an editorial policy without contamination from government and or private interests. 

The directors and senior management must be gathered and appointed in the most clinical manner; no party hacks and payback settlements for support in the last election must be considered. Such appointments and hirings must be done on the basis of the skills, experience and qualifications needed to achieve the agenda. All those institutions wishing to make an investment in human development towards diversification would have a say in the appointments.

A mechanism must also be devised to allow for publicly-influenced appointments to the board to keep a watching brief directly for listeners and viewers. One deliberate by-product of the state-owned media will be the development of private radio and television production houses to feed material onto the public service broadcast unit.

Of vital importance will be the funding of the state-owned media house. Government (on behalf of the people) already holds much seed capital by way property and equipment. There is every reason why, starting but not ending with state enterprises, corporations should investment a few million dollars annually to develop an institution that will have the responsibility to do all of the things already mentioned.

The large multinational corporations extracting resources and those in the financial sector must exercise their corporate social responsibility in investing in products which will have direct and positive bearing on the national capability, information base and psyche of the nation.

This is investment beyond financial returns. Such corporations will not only receive exposure but will gain public acclaim for their contribution to nationhood. The government can offer tax credits to those corporations which take on the responsibility. It would be of little benefit if the government were to simply sell the state information assets to a private company to produce more of the same: cheap, entertainment fare, loud talk and music on the air.


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