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Sunday 19 May 2019
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Commentary

Societies in eclipse

Eclipse. Among its meanings is “a rapid or sudden loss of importance or prominence in relation to another.” It also means to exist in obscurity. Everyday international media like BBC, CNN, Aljazeera, etc, report on events, people and conditions in countries of Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, Latin America; also the US, Australia, England and Australia. I see nothing about the Caribbean or about any of its constituent states. To the rest of the world, it seems as if Caribbean people live in an area of darkness, eclipsed into twilight zone.

We appear neither “important nor prominent” though we have over 20 countries in the UN. We punch far below our weight. In this very competitive world where nations must help themselves, where might is often right, it is important that Caribbean societies make their collective presence known. The imbalance in international news reporting leaves us relatively obscured though throughout the eighties, as columnists Tony Rakhal-Fraser and Wesley Gibbings would recall, developing countries struggled for a New World Information Order. This struggle against “cultural imperialism” through communication imbalance sputtered out under the heavy hands of the developed world. Like cabled creatures we survive with foreign imports – ideas, expertise, goods, etc.

Doesn’t Caricom’s position – split or otherwise – on Venezuela matter? Why are Caricom government meetings not on world media? We do not manufacture arms or have wars like the Middle East, yet we should insert our moral authority on the world stage. Our international presence should go beyond hurricanes, supply of ISIS fighters or the July 1990 Muslimeen insurrection. Brian Lara and Usain Bolt were mere glimpses.

We should also help ourselves. Why don’t we have a continuous television broadcast service – if not 24/7 then at least 6 am to 10 pm – shared among all Caribbean countries?

Former president of the Caribbean Media Workers, Wesley Gibbings, told me last week, “There is a serious vacuum in the Caribbean in this respect.”

From on-the-spot reporting we need to know more about the politics and economics of Jamaica, St Vincent, Belize, etc for the Caricom spirit to be deepened. Where are the Caribbean-driven cameras in Venezuela? There are some marketable 26 countries with a population of 44 million within the Caribbean – 20 within Caricom with 15 as full members (population 18 million). Caricom states are within the UN.

The enterprising Barbados-based Caribbean Media Broadcasting (CMB) with CaribVision does have reciprocal regional news relationships but this is not enough to serve as a CNN-type continuous broadcast of news, features across the Caribbean. This is an investment that the Caribbean Chambers of Commerce or a consortium of shared private sector-government arrangement could consider.

Maybe, there is a positive side to this shortage of international coverage because if the rest of the world hears, for example, about rising crime and violence in the Caribbean – from Jamaica to TT, well, our foreign investment and tourism industries would suffer. Those crime advisories sent out by the US Embassy and the High Commissions of Canada and the UK don’t help either. Many other countries have crime which attract international media but they also enjoy positive space too. The Caribbean deserves equal treatment.

Real-time Caribbean broadcasts of ground-level, street-talk issues beyond elitist dialogue will also energise Caricom and invite political attention. Here are eleven collected, ground-level examples: (1) Rundown’s Blaze wanted to know when is Venezuelan Arrival Day? (2) What does THA Chief Secretary Charles have to tell the public about the missing $8 million and $3 million tiling fiasco in Tobago? (3) The street rebellion in Sudan which caused government collapse started with the price increase in bread and food. (4) Kamla not going to take Barry’s expulsion from parliament just so. (5) Where is the father of the six children whose mother asking government for a house? (6) Is Gary really closing down 77 police stations to 30? (7) Who should clean up those huge piles of rubbish down Chacachacare - Gary Aboud, EMA, CDA? (8) Will the country get election financing regulations before the next election? (9) Why unionist Michael Annisette roughing up Rowley so? (10) Why Fitzgerald Hinds always so vex in parliament? (11) Minister Rambharat, why cocoa and rice farmers suffering so.

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