Veteran broadcaster Vic Fernandes is lamenting the state of regional media and has called for Caribbean owners to take a stand on issues of digital transformation and standards.
Fernandes, who served as CEO of Starcom Network for 26 years, issued the appeal last night at an awards dinner hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association.
In a speech on The role and responsibility of media in a changing landscape, he said quality and standards are under “severe threat” with increasing mediocrity on both radio and television, with many “sacrificing the need to get it right”.
“Our industry has changed dramatically and at a dizzying speed, technology is the new engine. I submit however that media leaders should occupy the driver’s seat, always mindful of the responsibilities that we undertake when we step up to be the public voice of our people and our region,” he said.
“Technology is simply a platform on which the train runs, it is not the train itself, it is a tool but a meaningless tool if we fail to exploit it by ensuring that our country our region and the world is aware of who we are, our values, our dreams, our aspirations and our achievements, who will tell our story if we don’t? We have the resources, but do we have the will?”
The 40-year media veteran described Caribbean broadcasting as being “barely breathing to comatose”.
“Today, the CMC and its subsidiary Caribvision are in intensive care; neither enjoys support from Caricom and only some broadcasters offer limited acceptance of the content offerings. Small wonder then we have had so many misunderstandings over issues affecting our region: the Shanique Myrie affair, landing rights for RedJet, higher tariffs on Barbados beer in St.Lucia and the repatriation of many Guyanese from Barbados, the challenge for many in accepting the CCJ as the final court of appeal in our region and the continued bickering over LIAT and other matters,” said the former chairman of the Caribbean Media Corporation.
He also called for broadcasters and Caricom to recommit, offer support and be a part of regional broadcasting institutions.
“…Recommit to training as a key strategy in the development of professional broadcasters and journalists and to embrace social media as a critical component of our media strategies, traditional media needs to support its new media platforms with the same energy as is given to the legacy media.”
Fernandes added, “We must be driven by financially sound models but must also seek to serve the interest of the public and to offer content that is relevant to our people; we must strive for higher standards across the board and seek to retain the brightest and the best. Public service broadcasting and operating profitably are not mutually exclusive models.It can be done without being at anyone ATM seeking to make withdrawals.”
His comments came a day ahead of the observance of World Press Freedom Day.