Please allow me to use your letter columns to comment on the continued abuse of the state owned National Communications Network (NCN) by the Government of Guyana.
Quite apart from the malicious propaganda broadcast by this state agency gone rogue, there are other harmful aspects to the blatant subordination of its duty to inform, to the political agenda of central government.
Last year’s revelations of what is clearly a culture of corruption within NCN illustrates the nexus between such political interference in an organization’s operation and the type of leadership it attracts.
The credibility of the state as an institution transcends passing governments, and once destroyed is not easily restored. One may argue that this credibility was destroyed before the assumption to power of the PPP/C government, but the fact remains that this government is now a deliberate contributor to this phenomenon. Moreover, the credibility of the state spills into a number of areas that affect the well-being of our country. A lack of public trust will undermine the best efforts at policing, tax collecting and economic expansion, all of which are critical to this country’s development and none of which are happening at optimal levels.
As with lost credibility, abuse of authority does not easily reverse itself once unleashed. Au contraire, it quickly spreads to other parts, assuming new forms and generally creating a comfort zone for those individuals who thrive in what is for most an unhealthy environment.
What a society is prepared to tolerate does give some indication of the quality of that society, and the silence of so many Guyanese on such a fundamental issue paints an unflattering picture. One wonders whether this glaring misuse of the state media has totally escaped the notice of the advertising profession, or at least that of its clientele whose dollars are funding this organization.
When one contemplates the sinister objective behind the skewed political coverage provided by NCN, it becomes clear that NCN is the single most effective tool in the PPP/C’s propaganda machinery. The problem is that NCN belongs to the state and not the PPP/C, and it therefore has a responsibility to ensure that all political parties are allowed equal access to their facilities. It might also be a good time to point out that this responsibility is in no way linked to parliamentary approval of its annual subvention from the nation’s Consolidated Fund. In other words, the fact that for two years in a row NCN has been denied this subvention by the National Assembly does not entitle it to discriminate against those political parties which refused to approve these funds.
I happened to watch a news broadcast on NCN earlier this week during which exclusive coverage was given to the government’s version of the budget deliberations. Not a single opposition member was interviewed as Minister after Minister lamented the vindictive and irresponsible actions of the opposition in not approving the estimates under the Ministry of Public Works’ Transport capital programme heading. This sort of journalism has no place in a modern country. It belongs behind an iron curtain.
A few members of the private sector were also shown adding their views which, unsurprisingly, mirrored those of the governing party, with two of these gentlemen using words like unfathomable, unthinkable and thoughtless to describe the opposition’s actions. Quite apart from my personal views on the priority of a new terminal building for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and their obvious partiality deriving from personal interests in this particular project, I wondered whether these gentlemen were aware that their comments would be used by NCN to further the partisan objectives of the governing party.
I believe that the time has come for NCN to be given the recognition it deserves as an organ of propaganda and misinformation. It does not matter how entertaining or how interesting the rest of the programming might be, as long as its newscasts and its political talk shows continue along current lines, this entity is in effect an enemy of the people of this country. Those who support this organization can no longer feign innocence, they are contributing to a national problem.
I have listened to the argument emanating from high up in this government that the state media have a duty to correct or counter the lies and misinformation being peddled by the opposition media and hence their apparent lack of balance. This is utter nonsense no matter how it is phrased. Those making such utterances are clearly appealing to the very minds they have helped to under-develop over the last twenty years.
To sum up what I am saying, I do not believe that, left to its own devices, NCN will morph into a decent and responsible national television station any time soon. New devices need to be deployed to force this to happen and the people of Guyana need to reject this insult to their intelligence. I have stopped just short of recommending some sort of boycott of products or businesses advertised on this station because I feel that this should be a last resort; however, it is an option that we should seriously consider if NCN continues its refusal to represent the views of the opposition in its broadcasts.