Are GBN & One Caribbean Media betraying the free media?

by Ray Roberts

GBN’s Flagship program “Beyond The Headlines” now has a charming young lady as its host in the person of Government Senator, The Hon. Cathisha Williams who is also Ambassador to the OECS.

No doubt about it, the young attorney is bright and articulate therefore this article has absolutely no problem with her academic brilliance and pleasantries.

Instead, the focus of this article is ethics/judgment and the precedent now being set by the owners of GBN, the One Caribbean Media.

Ms Williams is a highly enthusiastic political activist for her government in her community and in the Senate and from all indications being groomed as the NNP’s candidate for 2023 in the Constituency of St. John.

Considering her affiliation and significant role in the ruling NNP party and government – is she the fit and proper person to be employed by the Grenada Broadcasting Network (GBN) to anchor the nation’s number one talk show?

And more so in a period in which one political party holds all the elected seats in the House of Representatives?

Clearly Grenada’s democracy is not being helped by Ms Williams’ employment in GBN – a station that prides itself on fair and balance coverage.

There is absolutely no way Ms Williams could be fair and balance in anchoring the programme with being such an integral part of the government.

She is an overzealous NNP operative and people who have contrasting views to her government will not get a fair chance to debate an alternative perspective. In other words, she is an extension of the Government Information Service and the Party organ.

GBN and more importantly the One Caribbean Media ought to be ashamed of themselves. They are directly contributing to national censorship, and betraying the free press. Ms Williams is best equipped to host an NNP program and not a program like “Beyond The Headlines” which should be able to champion openness.

The NNP Government already controls every state institution in the nation and the media often considered the Fourth Estate is the one institution that could provide the opportunity for accountability in all areas.

The young lady is a practicing attorney and ought to have an appreciation for ethics and decency.

Why would she want to reduce herself to host an “independent” TV show as a sitting member of the Government in the Senate? One has to conclude it is all about creating a state monopoly on information.

With the One Caribbean Media getting majority ownership of GBN two decades ago, this was hailed as a new era for the free media.

The Governments of Sir Eric Gairy, the People’s Revolutionary Government of Maurice Bishop and Dr. Keith Mitchell – more than any other – have a horrible history of media abuses.

I was President of the Media Workers and along with the late Leslie Pierre welcomed the new Trinidad owners. Prime Minister Mitchell gave a commitment that his government wanted to see a professional and free media.

The likes of media icon Ken Gordon and the editors of the Nation Newspaper in Barbados and Gleaner in Jamaica all attended the handing-over and praised the Prime Minister for his bold step.

If Ms Williams becomes the permanent host then we have returned to the bad old era of government controlled programmes.

Yes, Ms Williams is very likeable, but she is not bringing any special talent that GBN cannot find among its workers. Immediately comes to mind is Brenda Baptiste or even Joseph Cadore who often anchor the daily “To the Point” Morning show Monday to Friday and do a great job.

The last “Beyond The Headlines” programme was very interesting as the host Ms Williams had as her guest two other political operatives of her own government – Minister of Climate Change, Senator Simon Stiell and Ambassador Dr. Angus Friday.

GBN and OCM – where is the journalist balance to a programme that is supposed to be independent?

Is Grenada witnessing a fast moving dictatorship that is bent on controlling each and every facet of life in the country including laying its hands on the media?

There is already news on the ground that another government information officer and party activist is tipped to become the new News Director at another popular TV news station.

The individual is known to be in the vanguard of her party constituency group and therefore she cannot be considered as a genuine and independent media personality.

Like Ms Williams who defends her government’s social and economic programs strongly in the parliament, the person tipped to become the New Director at another premier TV station often echoes over and over her Prime Minister’s words on social and economic matters.

What a pity GBN has chosen to dump the long-standing and veteran journalist, Lew Smith unceremoniously for a Government Senator.

No one in Grenada can deny that Lew Smith was an independent minded anchor and earned the respect of the vast majority of Grenadians as a fair and balance presenter.

Unfortunately we are returning to the days of radio and TV being overwhelmed by one view that of the NNP in the fulfillment of what many regards as the move towards a one-party state.

(Ray Roberts is a former independent Senator for the trade union movement in Parliament and candidate in the 2018 election for the main opposition National Democratic Congress)

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