The familiar voices and same old stories may turn some Barbadians off from the regular diet of call-in programmes of our radio stations; but we would be less than fair if we did not admit that these programmes have served Barbados well.
The biases, particularly the political variety, have shown in too many moderators over the years; while whether stated or unstated, the political agendas of a not insignificant number of callers could not be more apparent. But still their contributions helped to stir debate — or at least thought.
Now, when you add to the platform of the call-in programme the immediate availability and almost unlimited reach of the Internet, just about every Barbadian has a voice, only that in the case of the latter there is no producer to “cut the call”.
And now that Barbados has entered the election season, it has become clear that while the traditional use of the call-in programme has been given a boost by the political parties and their operatives, the various branches of the Internet are about to see unprecedented use.
The multi-media approach that the Net provides means that the message is likely to scream at potential voters in a variety of ways. We wish, even at this early stage of campaigning though, to urge the parties and those who represent them, not to let the anonymity of the Internet encourage them to sink to the gutter. It is easier, but it is not the best course to take.
We would wish that our political leaders, and those who speak on their behalf via these relatively new avenues, recognise that they have it within their hands to set a tone that promotes meaningful dialogue and education. This is particularly important since anyone who uses the Net for social interaction would recognise that it appears to have this uncanny ability to provoke the most robust and colourful language that fingers can tap out. Add to that those users who have the ability to doctor images and present them as the real McCoy and we can end up with a misinformed, but angry, population.
Given that all indications are that this election campaign will, as a matter of course, be perhaps more heated than any of the recent past, we all have a duty to ensure we don’t unnecessarily inflame passions. The state of the economy by itself has us all on edge — we don’t need more.
Since the last elections both major political parties have been streaming major meetings and events live on the Internet — a practise that has been stepped up in the last few months — and again we suspect a lot more Barbadians are going to be able to follow blow by blow what is said on the platform without leaving their living rooms.
This will be unfiltered by the pens and microphones of journalists. The potential for inflicting pain at the national level and beyond is at an all time high and traditional methods of moderating don’t apply. Those who speak ought to recognise this new reality and tailor their approaches accordingly.
Considering the new reach, General Elections 2012/2013 are likely to redefine how politicians and political parties win over a significant portion of the voting population.
Someone must lose, but if we do it the right way Barbados will win.
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