Guyana Learning Channel needs local content, pizzazz

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Learning Channel has been broadcasting for three months but somehow the response to the service has been rather lukewarm in various circles. Somehow, this channel did not become the HBO many Guyanese was hoping it would be. No commercials and politics, just educational programmes 24 hours a day, we were told. It turned out that the channel does not broadcast 24 hours per day. Interestingly, the channel is technically on for 24 hours a day, since its screen goes blank from 11:00 pm nightly, but does not go off the air (note the difference).

Several days after the channel’s big launch in Georgetown, it was announced that there would be a name change, from Educational Television Broadcasting Service (ETBS) to the Guyana Learning Channel (GLC). No reason was given for the change.

Then, it was announced a few weeks later that there would be some efforts to try and improve the programming so as not to repeat programmes. In other words, the station was admitting that it was short of broadcast materials. Shouldn’t this have been addressed months prior to the start-up of the channel?

A month or so later, the channel began broadcasting in Berbice on Channel 3. The signal is not the best and since the signals are relayed via satellite, there are interruptions periodically.

While the move to establish an educational channel was excellent, there should have been proper planning. When I heard about the educational channel, I thought we would be seeing classroom teaching lessons and more locally- produced and locally- inspired programmes. Instead, the bulk of programming is materials taken from U.S. Satellite channels. It is amazing how ‘they’ love to chastise the U.S. Government whenever it is convenient to do so but use their productions and television materials, some of the very best in the world. We cuss them again and yet we stole their idea of The Learning Channel (TLC) and Discovery Networks and established a quasi- version of those channels, but one that couldn’t come anywhere close to the quality TLC and Discovery deliver.

The Kaieteur News article of April 21 ‘Channel 80 renamed Guyana Learning Channel- Dr Luncheon’, outlined skepticism and “unanswered questions” about the service by one of the opposition parties. “It has also been noted that on a daily basis a number of the old television programmes, quizzes, debates and mathematics lessons are being repeated”, the article stated.

June 20 carried an excellent opinion piece by the Stabroek News, ‘The Learning Channel?’ “Trust Shaik Baksh to put the cart before the horse, to make promises that he fails to keep. It now transpires that the GLC was planned, set up and opened without anyone really working through the hurdle of providing local programme content. What a colossal joke!” the piece stated. But I beg to differ with the “cost of imported content”, since I do not believe a single red cent is paid for any of the American programming be it from the Discovery Channel or Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Instead, it appears to be that these programmes are ’pulled off’ directly from satellite. If readers have a chance, that opinion piece would make an excellent read.

However, as I stated earlier in the letter, Guyanese expected more local content coming out from the Ministry of Education and the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD). Today, there is a plethora of foreign- based content from the United States of America and American movies. Oh, we cannot do without the Americans but yet the corridors of power bad-mouth them.

News is educational but I have never seen a minute of news on the GLC. I am not impressed with the content. It could be so much better. I could run a better learning channel, even with my education background. So many things can qualify for airtime, such as short programmes about almost every sphere of learning: humanities, religion, sciences and arts, and to connect them to here at home, in Guyana. That, I am not seeing on the GLC. The authorities have had three months to improve the service but sadly that has not happened. What, I ask, is the future of the GLC? Some Berbicians do not even know the channel is broadcasting. It is a pity we live in a country where no surveys are done, no research carried out (even though we have a big Communications department at the University of Guyana Turkeyen), and Guyanese are left in the dark about the viewing patterns and likes and dislikes with regards to channels that they watch and favourite programmes.

The picture quality is blurring and needs to be clearer for it hurts the eye.

Also, there exists a ‘disconnect’ of the viewers to this channel, pardon my pun. There is no information about the channel, no website to access programme information and guides, no phone

number, no email address for feedback, no station ID, and no human being! The human element in any television station is important. Instead, it seems as if a robotic computer is operating the channel, playing programme after programme, and there is no human involvement or communication between viewers and broadcaster. I have never seen such a hum- drum channel which lacks pizzazz to educate the internet generation of the 21ST Century.

Perhaps the authorities should have initiated something like Cable in the Classroom being implemented by the U.S. Government and directly impacting the school system there by taking learning through electronic media straight into the classroom. They handed the initiative to establish education channels to private entities such as Discovery Communica-tions Networks, which I believe was a fantastic idea.

The Guyana Learning Channel could be an excellent initiative, but there has to be strategic improvements for optimum quality and effective output. And those ‘unanswered questions’ posed by the political forces in April have not been answered.

Yet, hell will freeze over before anyone stands up and admits failure.

Yours faithfully,
Leon Suseran

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