Jagdeo pushes for ‘good news’ television station

(Trinidad Guardian) Caricom leaders must establish a regional television station to transmit positive news about the region to counteract a “bombardment of North American culture,” says Guyana’s president Bharrat Jagdeo. “Let the private sector carry the negatives,” Jagdeo added on Monday, pushing for a regional “good news” TV station.

Jagdeo made the point at the closing ceremony of the 32nd Caricom Summit in St Kitts. T&T, however, was not in favour of the idea unless it was funded by the private sector, rather than the “already-overburdened Caricom organisation,” said T&T Caricom ambassador Mervyn Assam. Jagdeo, who said communication was at the heart of the integration movement, had urged the institution of a regional television station to “develop a sense of regional patrimony.”

He pointed to a bombardment of North American culture and “subliminal messages almost taking us back to slavery” with such things. “If we don’t say the positive things about ourselves, we’ll be defined by others,” Jagdeo added. Saying there was an industry in the Guyanese media generating negativity, he noted some Guyanese newspapers which routinely put crime on the front pages. “They will put a story about someone losing hand, if they don’t have crime…If there’s nothing bad, they’ll recall a crime story and put it there,” Jagdeo said, adding that this situation obscured positive news about Guyana.

Grenadian PM Tillman Thomas supported the idea of a regional TV station. He recalled the region in the 1960s and ’70s had the services of Radio Antilles to keep citizens informed on regional events. Saying unions and other sectors of the various states should be interested in the idea also, Thomas said regional governments should try and facilitate the proposal. Incoming Caricom chairman Suriname Desi Bouterse said the idea would be on Caricom’s agenda since without communication, the regional grouping faced a big obstacle.

But Assam said: “If such a station has to be funded privately, we have no problem with that. “Jagdeo himself has pointed out that Caricom should look to trim excess projects…So we can only add a regional TV station to an already-overburdened Caricom budget if an international agency funds it or the private sector,” Assam said.

“The idea may be laudable to try and improve communication and engage regional peoples, but the cost would be prohibitive and I don’t see the existing Caricom structure carrying it. “We in T&T also have a CNMG which is costing taxpayers millions.” Jagdeo, who demits Guyana’s presidency in November, ending his Caricom participation on a controversial note, angrily dismissing criticism by groups on lack of incentive by governments for tourism. Jagdeo said: “Absolute nonsense! Who do they think build the roads and airports etc. They keep obsessing about taxes and often they themselves don’t look at their tax structure.” Grenada’s Thomas said Jagdeo was the youngest Caricom member and had a lot to offer the region since he was championing climate change and other issues. Thomas said Caricom expected Jagdeo to make some contribution and looked forward to working with him in whatever he was championing and in promoting regional integration.

During the summit, Jagdeo turned down some leaders’ suggestion to become Caricom Secretary-General. Still, he has pledged to assist Caricom where available. Caricom chairman Denzil Douglas has said a Secretary-General would be appointed soon, after five people were interviewed over the last two weeks. Acting Secretary-General Lolita Applewhaite, who retires soon, did not submit her name for consideration.

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