SOMETIME AGO I read a news story about a BBC radio presenter who collapsed to fits of giggles while reading the news.
She was reporting on the earliest reputed voice recording. Here’s why she succumbed to her gigglepsy: a producer whispered in her ear that the recording sounded like bees buzzing in a bottle. Unfortunately, the following news item was a death announcement.
Now, popular lore suggested Prince Charles was listening to the broadcast and called the BBC to complain. Actually, the opposite is true. Prince Charles reportedly wrote the announcer a personal letter thanking her for making him cry with laughter.
We’ve had a BBC intervention of our own, albeit with a different tone. Many of us cried with laughter but also recoiled in shame. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley held another one of his hand-wringing news conferences. It’s a quirk of body language I’ve noticed lately – the wringing of his hands is so furious it’s likely one day he will achieve nuclear fusion between his palms.
The PM was furious with a BBC news report on the Venezuelan migrant crisis in TT. Great umbrage was taken and so on. Rowley had an issue with the reported figure of 40,000 migrants believed to be in this country.
For the PM to say he doesn’t know where they (the BBC) get their figures from is peculiar. His Minister of National Security Stuart Young quoted the same estimate with his own mouth. The figure reported by the BBC is a rough number developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Rowley seemed to be suggesting the number of Venezuelan amnesty registrants, 16,500, represents the total number of migrants. Presumably any migrants outside that figure don’t exist in this dimension. Let that sink in.
Now, the Government could have presented its narrative in the story. The BBC says efforts were made to interview government spokespersons. While PNM supporters deny this ever happened, it is a moot point. In the same news conference the PM rubbished the idea that the Government needed to speak to a BBC crew, saying all the information “was in the public domain.” I guess the BBC should have bought a newspaper.
Thus we are burdened with a PM complaining about a news story the TT Government wanted no part in telling. Indeed, the PM should be grateful the BBC producers didn’t get their hands on the clip of Franklin Khan saying, “What humanitarian crisis in Venezuela?” (Read in Scooby-Doo voice.)
The PM also assumes the BBC works the same way TTT does in our socialist dictatorship. Government ministers have a fine tradition of phoning TTT and editing reporters’ stories. I personally witnessed a minister demanding the head of a head of news.
British High Commissioner Tim Stew, who invoked the independence of the British press, summarily dismissed the PM’s complaint. What followed was a crazed response from Rowley saying, among other curious things, “They (the BBC) send coded messages around the world for the British government.”
I never thought of Rowley as a tinfoil hat kind of guy, but his follow-up response to the British high commissioner was just plain bizarre.
As rabid PNM disciples fanned out in their oracle’s defence, many shouted their distaste at having their views misrepresented by deport activist Rankin Kia Boss in the report. I can relate to their discomfort. I felt a distinct tinge of embarrassment when I saw the clip of the PM snarling in the same BBC feature.
Rowley must not have seen the vice report broadcast in March. If he had, his head would have exploded because it was far more unflattering than the BBC’s account.
The international media have been coming here for quite some time to cover the refugee crisis. In fact, a friend of mine from an ABC affiliate station in the US was here recently to report on the medical ship the USNS Comfort. She reached out to the Government for a comment on the Venezuelan migrants and got nothing.
This administration should have cobbled together a communications strategy to present its side of the story. But then the Government didn’t think much of throwing together some sort of refugee policy either.
Ultimately, the PM’s vacuous finger wagging at the British felt like more of the pointless sound and fury we’re getting used to. For the UK government facing the existential dread of Brexit, TT’s complaints about the BBC likely bear the timbre of a minor nuisance...sort of like a bee buzzing in a bottle.