Friday, April 19, 2024

BLP suit?

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THE CARIBBEAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION (CBC) and the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) are on a collision course over the right of access to airtime that appears headed for the law courts.Yesterday, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley told the SUNDAY SUN that attorneys-at-law Leslie Haynes, QC, and Donna Symmonds had already been briefed and the party was awaiting their advice.Mottley said CBC’s refusal of broadcast time to the BLP was not only an attack on democracy, but was tantamount to a contravention of section 20 (1) of Barbados’ Constitution.Mottley said CBC had repeatedly refused the BLP access to the purchase of broadcast time. Ironically, she explained, The Pine, St Michael institution had initially sold her party airtime after the DLP came to power in 2008 and then abruptly stopped.“I do not know why there was the change of heart,” she said, adding that Voice Of Barbados soldtime to the BLP for the same broadcast for which the party had last requested CBC’s indulgence. She noted VOB was subject to the same broadcast regulations as CBC.But in a letter to Mottley dated July 20, CBC’s general manager Lars Soderstrom said CBC could not accede to Mottley’s request as it could be deemed as a “paid political broadcast” and outside a national election period.Referring to a broadcast by VOB, Soderstrom said CBC covered the same event but time did not permit them to have the footage reviewed by lawyers in advance of the requested broadcast dates.However, Mottley said if Soderstrom’s claim was to be accepted, it would mean that Barbados could have no parties purchasing broadcast time other than during an election period.“And this runs counter to the freedom of expression, the freedom to communicate information freely, the freedom to receive information freely, which are enshrined in our Constitution,” she said.The BLP leader said it could not be acceptable that a party for which 75 000 Barbadians voted in the last election, could not have access to CBC. She explained citizens had a right to hear every perspective on all matters in the country. She charged CBC had covered one BLP nomination out of 13 since October 2008.She added that conversely CBC was giving full coverage to Government’s constituency reports. She dismissed the nightly news extra that follows the Evening News broadcast as a euphemism for “the minister speaks”.“Who is paying for the broadcast of the constituency reports? Is it the Government of Barbados? Or is CBC giving them the time free? If it is not the Government of Barbados and CBC is not giving them the time free, is the Democratic Labour Party paying? In every instance of those three, it therefore requires that there be a level playing field for the communication of ideas,” she said.She recalled that under the BLP’s administration, the DLP’s lunchtime lectures and Sunday branch meetings received full vent at CBC.She charged that CBC only gave the BLP full coverage when it was an excursion or funeral but neither could deal with the issues that put food on the tables of Barbadians. Efforts to reach Soderstrom for further comment yesterday were futile. wadegibbons@nationnews.com

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