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Friday, May 19, 2006 

Our Caribbean – Cana story in our media's challenges
Published on: 5/19/06.

by Rickey Singh

SIR RONALD SANDERS, former diplomat, broadcaster and current business executive and writer on issues affecting small states of the global community, has lamented the bitter daily reality of Caribbean people knowing more about events in the United States and Britain than of what they should about neighbouring states of our Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

He was delivering a presentation on Tuesday night at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus. The paucity of the audience was a shame for the occasion – a public lecture to mark the 30th anniversary of the Caribbean News Agency (CANA). Sir Ronald's topic was: The Evolution Of CANA And The Role Of The Regional Media In The Caribbean Single Market.

Blame the local media for failure to properly promote an event assumed to be relevant to media people, representatives of the private and public sectors and members of the public at a time of oft expressed concerns about how we communicate with each other as peoples of an envisaged seamless regional economy.

The chairman for the event, Harold Hoyte, President and Editor-in-Chief of The Nation Publishing Company, stressed his disappointment in the poor attendance for what was a well-researched, scholarly and eloquent presentation. Any decision-maker, anyone involved in any significant role in public communication, development policies and strategies, or has more than a passing interest in the history of the origin, contributions and hurtful miniaturising of our experiment with an indigenous news service (wire and radio) and for the news and information flow about and within CARICOM, should read Sir Ronald's presentation.

It is disappointing that what happened on Tuesday night was an extension of a failure by media professionals – certainly top and middle-level decision-makers – in a region where, irrespective of ownership, the media has acquired an unflattering record in covering developments concerning the industry.

It is an attitude that cannot be divorced from the problems that eventually resulted in the collapse of the once vibrant CANA wire and radio news services and the subsequent 1999 merger of expediency for survival with the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU). That merger spawned what now functions, with many restraints, as the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
Appropriate alternatives for the drying up of foreign funding sources that have sustained CANA and CBU as separate entities, never seemed to have emerged as a serious consideration for the region's leading entrepreneurs, who maintained a very negative approach to Government involvement in a regional media/communications enterprise, such as CANA.

In his presentation, Sir Ronald wondered aloud whether now was not the time for the shareholders of what remains of CANA as a legal entity, to float today's CMC as a public company on the stock exchanges within CARICOM to give Caribbean people an opportunity to invest in it with the finance that could help launch an integrated pan-Caribbean radio and television network.

That would be a bold step. The question is whether once the regionally committed are motivated to pursue such an enterprise, others may want to supplant the idea of the CMC as a public company with a project of their own, if only to frustrate its realisation.

On a related note, the challenges ahead for an imaginative communications venture in the service of "one Caribbean, one economy, one people" could hardly be discerned from the reported results of the recent Sixth Caribbean Media Conference in Barbados. The conference has earned an unflattering profile in failure to attract meaningful representation and, worse, in advancing decisions taken.

© 1997-2005. Nation Publishing Company Limited.

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