by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 27 May 2007)
Did you know that Jamaica has 40 radio stations? Or that Barbados has 12? It’s true; I did some research (on radiostationworld.com) out of curiosity as to why Guyana’s government is still holding the radio industry hostage.
I even tried to put myself in their supposed communist shoes and checked up on Cuba. Did you know that good old Castro allows over 150 radio stations to be broadcast in his country? Whoa baby! He’s not afraid of the big bad wolf. I’m sure some or even most of those stations are government controlled, but I saw some from other countries as well.
Likewise, Venezuela has over 150 radio stations and Bolivia has over 65 stations. So it does not seem as if the PPP is monopolising the radio waves because of a bad example set by some other dictatorial ruler. Even Iran has far more radio station than Guyana and that government is one of the most oppressive in the world.
I do wish I could understand the reasoning behind why the PPP’s will not allow more radio stations to broadcast in the nation. Especially since this nasty subject rears its head in some of the most inconvenient places, like the 2006 country report on Human Rights Practices, released in March by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.
I imagine this subject must be a bit touchy for President Jagdeo when he is hob-nobbing with other world leaders too. When trying to look like the better of the Caribbean countries, the new president of Haiti might mention - with some other international leaders close at hand - that his country has around 36 radio stations and then turn to Jagdeo as he clears his throat and ask, “How many stations do you have, Jagdeo?”
Oh my! What an embarrassing situation for Guyana’s dear president. When I lived in Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala, it was really something to see that even in the most rural areas, you could still get dozens of radio stations.
The abundance of radio stations all around the world – even in rural areas and in countries with oppressive governments - really makes a person wonder why Guyana is still stuck with just two government owned and controlled stations. Even now I am scratching my head in disbelief.
Let’s be honest, if this situation truly stemmed from the fact that the government feels it does not have the capacity to properly regulate the industry, there are ways to fix that problem. In fact, steps have been taken, and subsequently squashed, in that direction.
If you ask me, this is about the PPP’s need to play the big dog. Ruff. The insecurity of allowing others to have free expression over the radio cannot be very appealing for the ruling party. Ruff, ruff. The idea that the opposition parties would have more places to spread their own propaganda is probably pretty disturbing too. Growl.
But at the end of the day, it probably makes the PPP leaders feel real good to know that nobody else can use Guyana’s radio waves but them. They are the big dogs. Bow-wow.
Honestly, I just cannot see any other reason – other than pure bravado – that would force the PPP to hold the entire nation back from enjoying the same developments the rest of the world now takes for granted. For example, England has over 560 radio stations and France has over 900. Who could ever listen to all of those stations?
I have a great idea. Perhaps if the members of Parliament drafted a new broadcasting bill that included plenty of language that paid homage to the big dog, then maybe the PPP would be more inclined to allow at least a few independent stations to broadcast.
The new bill should be laced with terms like, “the big dog is great,” and “we hereby recognise the illustrious big dog for his kind generosity.” It might not hurt to toss in phrases of praise and honour to the wisest big dog to ever roam the face of the earth too.
If any of the Parliament members need some help with the wording, I would be more than happy to help. This is so exciting. As soon as this new draft of the broadcasting bill is finished, we could see an explosion of radio stations in Guyana.
The nation will be alive with free expression in the form of songs, news and opinions. Everyone will have one more way to get their daily dose of Tony Vieira. Maybe we can even get Sweet and Sensitive Freddie his own show! We could call it, Finally Free with Freddie Kissoon.
It will be absolutely wonderful to have dozens of radio stations and we will only have the great and illustrious PPP to thank. After all, you can’t be a big dog with just two radio stations. Bow-wow.