Merundoi still off the air

-Lawrence surprised, disappointed

The promised return of the radio serial Merundoi to the airwaves of the National Communication Network (NCN) yesterday did not materialise and no one seems to know what the future holds for the popular drama.

Head of the Merundoi local office Margaret Lawrence, who had said that broadcasts of the show would resume yesterday, told Stabroek News when contacted that she was “disappointed and surprised” that the programme was not aired.

Chief Executive Officer of NCN Mohammed Sattaur and Programme Manager Martin Goolsarran are both out of the country, and efforts to get a comment from other officials yesterday were futile.

The serial was pulled from NCN‘s airwaves last week Tuesday over a storyline that dealt with voter education. Last Wednesday, Lawrence told Stabroek News that the matter was “amicably” resolved and described the situation as a “storm in a teacup.” She had declined to offer further comment but said that NCN and Merundoi would issue a joint press release.

The press statement is yet to be issued. Stabroek News has been told that NCN’s board is yet to give clearance for the release to be issued. It is understood that the draft release basically said that NCN has certain policies that needed to be adhered to and that Merundoi had agreed to adhere to these policies. It is, however, understood that no changes were made to the show’s storyline.

Last week a source close to the production had confirmed that they were informed that the show would no longer be aired.

Stabroek News was told that the aim of the voter education storyline was to persuade people to vote unity and not race. “It was all about general education,” the source stressed.

The source had told this newspaper that the pulled show was already on the internet, since episodes are uploaded at the beginning of each week.

Persons close to the radio play said that the development was surprising, since there was no message about a political party or anything that would incite tension or conflict.

Over the years it has gained popularity among many, especially youths.

Stabroek News had asked Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon about the issue last week but he indicated it would only be appropriate for NCN or Merundoi to speak on the issue. Further, he said that the issue should be looked at in the context of the new regulations, which would be firmly and rigorously implemented under the new broadcast law.

Merundoi started out as a joint venture production by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Global AIDS Programme Guyana in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

The serial is a PEPFAR-Government of Guyana project based on the MARCH (Modelling and Reinforce-ment to Combat HIV) strategy for behaviour change communication and aims to help people reduce the risk of HIV infection and transmission; encourage access to care and treatment, support individual behaviour change and reduce stigma and discrimination.

When it acquired Non Governmental Organisa-tion status in 2008, it functioned independently with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) being its main donor. Since its first episode aired in October 2006, Merundoi had integrated into the health and education sectors, executing its strategy for behaviour change communication and tapping into the school curriculum.

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