President favours broadcast digitisation, but stresses media professionalism

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Image for inside the story[GINA]-  President Donald Ramotar is fully behind the Caribbean Broadcasting Union’s (CBU) mission to transform the region’s television and radio operations on a digital trajectory, but remains resolute that media ethics and standards must be adhered to.

In his keynote address at the opening of the CBU’s 44th Annual General Assembly, yesterday at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal, President Ramotar said participants should be concerned about ethics in the quest to digitise the region’s broadcast operations and seek to establish standards in this regard.

“While we can all agree to the great benefits that we can derive from the new technology, let me also note that if not properly used, it can cause much damage. That is why it is important that you must concern yourselves with the ethics and morals in this sector,” he told the delegates.

In a country where some sections of the broadcast and print media promulgate news from a partisan point of view, President Ramotar said he is oftentimes of the opinion that the media is being misused.

“I’m concerned that they (media owners) intend to impose their own personal points of view because of their ownership of some of the media, on society as a whole, sometimes even spreading untruths, half-truths and distortions,” the Head of State said.

“Objectivity is lost and persons who disagree are targets, professional people become targets for attack and slander, to be maligned, slandered… totally disregarding the national interest of our country,” President Ramotar said.

“Irresponsible” media practices have on occasions prompted the Guyana Government to bring law suits on culpable operators even as it maintains its respect for responsible media.

President Ramotar told the gathering that a free society, characterised by freedom of expression and freedom of the press are all vital components of democratic norms, and that the use of technologies is supporting the need for people to enjoy their fundamental rights and freedoms.

Recognising the benefits to be garnered, the Guyana Government has fully embraced the application of technology to various sectors. The establishment of a 24-hour learning channel has expanded and personalised teaching to the nation’s youth and will be expanded further, according to President Ramotar.

“In today’s world, information is extremely crucial to socio-economic progress. We have seen how the growth of digital technology is impacting on the production of goods and services around the world. Those of us in the public service are very much interested in the use of technology to bring people out of poverty and enroll them in the process of nation building,” President Ramotar.

The Head of State recognised the important role of the CBU. “The Government of Guyana continues to applaud and support the CBU and its work. We believe that the CBU’s leadership in the broadcast sector, especially its role in ensuring that the broadcast industry remains technologically relevant,” he stated.

The passage of the Freedom of Information Act of 2011 and the recent appointment of a Commissioner of Information to serve as a clearing house for all information requested by members of the public were regarded by President Ramotar as part of the Guyana Government’s obligation under the declaration of Chapultepec to which Guyana is a signatory.

The declaration states that freedom of expression in all its forms and manifestations is a fundamental and inalienable right of all individuals. Additionally it is an indispensible requirement for the very existence of a democratic society.

Sally Ann Wilson, Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) will be facilitating a two- day workshop focusing on the business of broadcasting in a digital age.

The United States and a few European countries have already effected the switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting since 104 countries adopted and signed the treaty agreement to switch over from analogue to digital broadcasting at the Geneva meeting of the International Telecommunication Union in June 2006.

Commencement for the switch over was June 17, 2006 and the deadline for completion is June 17, 2015. Many countries including some in the Caribbean are still to make the transition.

Chairman of the NCN Board, Dr. Prem Misir explained that the theme of the conference, “The Business of Broadcasting in the Digital Age” is opportune in light of the digital transition around the world.  Dr. Misir said that digitisation brings benefits such as large segments of the broadcast spectrum are freed up for other purposes inclusive of police communication. He said digitisation of sound broadcasting is still lagging behind television in the Caribbean and other countries.

“The delegates’ presence at this conference, coupled with our own broadcasting fraternity speaks volumes, symbolising that we are all together in our collective pursuits, we have all dedicated ourselves to work as a team, to share our views, discover innovative partnerships and seek resolution to significant broadcasting problems. In the end, our job is to comprehensively and competitively digitalise broadcasting,” Dr Misir stated.

A report presented by CBU President Shida Bolai expounded on the way in which technology has transformed media operations, changed markets and redesigned consumer habits, dissolved barriers and created a new media none could have imagined four decades ago.

“For broadcasters, technology has changed the rules of the game. In some ways it has levelled the playing field, in others it has lowered the platform while raising the bar… the greatest challenge can be described in four words ‘stay relevant, stay ahead,” Bolai said.

CBU’s 44th Annual General Assembly will focus attention on the progress of public broadcasting in the Caribbean, intellectual property, skills development and capacity building. Guyana is the birthplace of the CBU.

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