Barbados Labour Party (BLP) General Secretary Dr Jerome Walcott has struck an ominous note on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), suggesting the BLP will change CBC’s status once it wins the next general election.
Walcott warned the country’s lone licensed television station things were about to change at the state-owned media house after he accused it of refusing to broadcast BLP events, even when the Opposition party offered to pay.
In his report to the party’s 79th Annual Conference over the weekend at Queen’s Park, The City, Walcott said: “The longest day must come to an end and eventually the people of Barbados will determine the fate and future of the CBC.”
Walcott implied things will be different at the TV and radio stations, which he said were managed by Government political appointees.
The BLP general secretary’s complaints against CBC are not new as the Opposition has accused CBC of politically partisan coverage for years. In its 2013 elections manifesto, the BLP announced a plan to open free television broadcasting to competition.
“We will urgently and immediately issue additional television licences to ensure that our citizens are given choice with respect to their access to news, information and entertainment on free to air television,” the BLP’s 2013 manifesto stated.
The Opposition also complained, “agencies of state, not least the CBC and constituency councils have been used for tribal, partisan purposes. The finances of the state have been heavily used to support the partisan political programme of the ruling party”.
As another general election looms, Walcott charged: “Apparently CBC, a Barbadian station, financed by the tax payers of Barbados, which should be operating for all Barbadians seems to have a recurrent problem with the requests of this country’s main Opposition party the Barbados Labour Party.”
Walcott went on to cite recent instances of CBC’s refusal of paid BLP advertising, including a request for live broadcast and then delayed broadcast of the Opposition leader, Mia Mottley’s address last Saturday.
Walcott said his party sought similar coverage given Prime Minister Freundel Stuart during his address as president of the Democratic Labour Party in September when CBC not only carried the address live, but also rebroadcast it.
Having received no response from the corporation, he reported that the BLP wrote the director of broadcasting services on Thursday requesting a paid delayed broadcast of Mottley’s address on Sunday.
“We were now seeking to purchase air time, not for a live broadcast but for the re-broadcasting of our political leader’s speech and indicated that a cheque for the amount quoted to us by CBC would be dispatched as soon as approval had been obtained for this re-broadcast,” Walcott told party faithful.
Walcott said CBC General Manager Doug Hoyte, responded the same day explaining, “CBC cannot accede to your request as this could be construed as a ‘paid political broadcast’ seeing as it falls outside the national election period”.
“So what was it in September when CBC broadcast the president of the Democratic Labour Party live and repeated it ad nauseam?” Walcott asked party members and supporters.
“Some of the senior management of the CBC see the operations of CBC as the public relations arm of the Democratic Labour Party as their role and function,” Walcott charged.
Contending that some members of CBC’s senior management “cannot deny their connection to the Democratic Labour Party”, he said, “one was a [DLP political] candidate. One has chaired a public meeting for the DLP. And one holds dear his friendship from school days with the late prime minister David Thompson”.
Walcott also identified DLP General Secretary George Pilgrim as a CBC board member and said, “it is therefore no surprise how CBC is being crudely manipulated for political purposes”.