Response to a Jan 18 2020 published letter from Mr. Anthony Vieira

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Dear Editor,
ALL adjectives aside, Mr. Anthony Vieira continues to wallow under the belief that he knows everything about everything.

He now segues the discussion into whether government should own media in competition with private media. He confuses, like his erstwhile colleague, the Fairness Issue with Equality. As I indicated in another forum there is a difference between the Fairness Doctrine and the Equal Time Rule. I will dilate no more on the difference.  Mr. Vieira’s latest letter (published January 18, 2020) is riddled with other inaccuracies.

Mr. Anthony Vieira proceeds on the persistent position he has taken on subventions to the State Broadcaster which he states create direct competition with private broadcasters.  In 1997, Mr. David DeCaires, another Individual and I considered a draft submission as part of a body  of amendments to the Constitution. The Tripartite Group wrote:

“(6) We believe that State ownership of the media causes a number of distortions both commercially and in the undue politicisation of the media.
State media inevitably report the news in a biased manner in the interest of the ruling party which leads to a sort of reactive bias by some private media. This is not conducive to professional standards of reporting. We propose that there be a clause in the constitution preventing the State from owning or operating a newspaper, radio or television commercially.”

The submission was discussed. Those who now seek to pontificate on what Enrico Woolford has to say now or whether he knows what he knows should explain where the proposal went.

Since 1997 the world of Information and Communications Technology has evolved. In Guyana a Permanent Political Paradigm was created: the then ruling party in an unprecedented move, gifted itself five radio frequencies and other frequencies to friends, followers and a few others. Anthony Vieira before that giveaway sold his station to a close friend and associate of the then President and ruling party. In addition, cable television was halted and a new dispensation declared which favoured some and sidelined others before it was restarted. Mr. Vieira now seeks to position the so-called unfairness of state media ownership and competition within that public/private paradigm shift.

Internationally, another paradigm shift was taking place. I refer to the emergence and convergence of the plethora of platforms and the multiplicity of media in content and channels.

NCN therefore within the last four years has reformed, re-defined and is re-equipping itself using its subventions to become a truly national public broadcasting service. It has opened radio and television stations in regional capital towns and in other villages, returned community broadcasting to Linden,  redefined the role and content format of its television and radio stations and is continuing its Satellite Distribution Service along with its transition from analogue to digital TV.  So from Orealla to Aishalton, Mabaruma to Mahdia and places in between and along the coast only the forest covers Guyana better.  All of the expansion that NCN is undertaking it is unlikely that any private broadcaster will seek to undertake.

Let me restrain myself from commenting about Vieira’s prognosis for private/ public sector growth and development and his views on the advertising pie in what is an economy that is number one on the runway, with engines revving, ready for takeoff.  Anthony Vieira does not like to be told he is wrong so I would not tell him that he is.

On the Issue of Trinidad and Tobago’s jurisprudence, it is a pity that Anthony Vieira’s good friend and legal luminary Sir Fenton Ramsahoye is dead. Mr. Vieira could do well with the learned Senior Counsel’s advice and guidance at this stage.
On his inaccuracy about TTT, I am not sure where Anthony Vieira gets his information from about TTT’s ownership. Please note my earlier intervention about the emergence of platforms. There is a platform on which anyone can go to check information, if not, call a friend. However since Anthony Vieira and his erstwhile colleague wanted to gain the attention of the international community, please note that the U.S. Embassy, Georgetown, has started a Campaign #CheckFuhYuhSelf.

Best Regards
Enrico Woolford