Minister of Commerce, Industry and Business Development Donville Inniss today called for an end to the monopoly enjoyed by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and an examination of its role as a state-owned entity.
In fact, on the day Parliament approved a grant of $9.2 million for CBC so it can meet outstanding debt, Inniss stopped short of calling for the privatization of the state broadcaster, saying in these times the state had no place in direct involvement in media operations, but should be providing a regulatory environment.
“Any modern democracy places great emphasis on an independent media, on ensuring there is a very clear mechanism in place for granting of licences to operate media house,” Inniss said, adding that governments must recognize how technology has changed in developing the best regulatory environment for the media.
Calling for “a greater sense of urgency” in the matter, the minister called for Government “to focus more on creating and maintaining the best regulatory environment that covers all types of media in Barbados, and all types of media houses, and not necessarily lock itself into just the ownership and operation of a few media houses”.
“If we wish to give television licences to others, give them. Just ensure that [we] have the right environment,” he said.
However, he conceded that in a liberalized television broadcast licencing environment there was still a role for state-owned media because private entities may not have economic incentives to carry some national development programmes.
“If the state wished to continue to be in the field of ownership and management of radio and television stations, it must be in areas that the other media houses may not be in . . . in a niche area,” the minister said.
Inniss also suggested that an analysis be made to determine whether or not CBC and the Barbados Government Information Service should “combine efforts”.
“Has the time not come when the state must look at these two agencies and ask yourself what is the best fit? Is it necessary to maintain two separate entities like that, or can we find a way in which we combine efforts?” he asked.
Noting that CBC has been shrouded in politics for most of it is existence, and has had challenges earning revenue, Inniss warned that without changes the situation would continue.
“It is a broader issue . . . where do we go from here with that particular institution?
“The time has come when we as a Parliament have to wrap our minds around what is CBC, what is it about, and how it is financed . . . .It is about the state redefining its role in public broadcasts, in media ownership and operation in 21st century Barbados,” he argued.