As Government moved Tuesday to amend the CBC Act, giving greater ministerial power over a restructured top management of the state broadcaster, the Leader of the Opposition Bishop Joseph Atherley accused the administration of taking “baby steps towards tyranny and giant strides towards dictatorship”.
Atherley said that as the Labour Party regime seeks to appease major investors it has not done enough to address issues directly affecting the average “man in the street”, levelling his criticism at CBC ex-workers.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Amendment Bill, Atherley addressed the plight of former workers at the broadcaster who had not yet received their gratuities and pensions more than one year after they lost their jobs as part of the Barbados Economic Recovery and Transformation (BERT) programme.
He said:”Settlement of this matter has been long in coming.
“In Barbados it is not desirable that we see on the part of any government at any time giant strides to dictatorship or baby steps to tyranny.
“It is not desirable that bullying becomes a part of our governance practice in Barbados.
“The former CBC workers feel that they are not being treated justly, that the swift hand moving in the interest of others is not being moved in their interest.
“For example, some would tell you the move to facilitate the Hyatt development on Bay Street is a manifestation of a swift hand, but when it comes to settling debt for poor people at CBC now out of a job, who have lawful claims to their payments, this is the absence of a swift hand.
“People do not feel comfortable in the face of these things.”
But Leader of Government Business Santia Bradshaw dismissed the claim of a move towards dictatorship, declaring “this Government will not be using CBC to censor any party or individual within Barbados, and we will continue to display transparency and accountability in all that we do”
On the matter of CBC staff pensions, the MP for the St. Michael South East riding in which the 52-year-old corporation is located, said: “The last administration had not made any National Insurance contributions since 2015, and right now this issue at CBC is before the Ministry of Finance and the outcome will be made public once it is sorted out.”
MP for St. James Central Kerrie Symmonds and Government backbencher Ian Gooding-Edghill both agreed that CBC had been used as a “political football” for many years, and believed the amendments to the act, which include the shift from a General Manager to a Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer, would put an end to this practice.
But the new bill would give the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, under whose portfolio CBC falls, final approval on all appointments of executives and workers at the lone terrestrial television station, three-station radio network and subscription television service.
Gooding-Edghill and MP for St George North Gline Clarke suggested that CBC should take advantage of live streaming via the Internet rather than continuing to rely on “free-to-air” programming.
Stating that the idea to merge CBC with the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) was first mooted some 20 years ago, Clarke said he believed now would be a good time to do so.
The former transport minister in a previous Labour Party government declared: “CBC needs to get away from buying programmes from HBO and other foreign stations and stick to news, sports and community events.
“Ideally, it should be under the Ministry of Culture, because when CBC shows NIFCA, people watch it; when CBC shows school sports, people watch, and there are other ways in which Barbadians can access the foreign programmes now. So this would be a great opportunity to transform the station.”