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New govt instructs NCN to provide balanced coverage

by Zena Henry

The decades-long glaring one-sided coverage of the government and ruling party by Guyana’s State-owned media appears to be finally coming to an end.

At least, that is the impression that the boss of the National Communications Network (NCN) was given Monday during a meeting with top representatives of the David Granger-led administration.

The CEO told Demerara Waves Online News that all employees were reassured that the company’s work would continue and the focus was not about making immediate changes but ensuring that there is fair and equitable access to the state-owned radio and television outfit.

“They were very open in terms of their views on the fact that some of the stories they would like to see to see it should not be slanted in any way it should not favour any political party. They did say equal access to airtime remains paramount,” said Hassan

Representatives of government at the meeting were Cathy Hughes, a journalist by profession, and former APNU+AFC Communication czars Mark Archer and Imran Khan.

Hughes said the NCN boss was reassured that no one has anything to fear and it was important that professional standards be upheld. “Our focus has been on reassuing that there will be no mass firing of staff. We are committed to working with a team judged solely on professional standards,” she said.

Guyana’s State media have been historically used as largely the sole mouthpiece of successive governments- first the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led administration from the 1970s to October 1992 and the People’s Progressive Party Civic from 1992 to May, 2015.

Nakedly biased coverage in favour of the PPPC and the government was one of the biggest hindrances to the balanced dissemination of information to the nation.

Communications practitioner, Bobby Vieria, who is associated with the new government, said so far discussions about the State media’s content have been confined to coverage of activities for Guyana’s 49th Independence Anniversary and the Inauguration Ceremony for President David Granger.

“Everything remains the same for now,” Vieria told Demerara Waves as he explained that the necessary changes would be made soon. He said all the necessary steps will be finalized after the national celebrations and activities.

President David Granger has declared that his government would not be one to seek heads or one to go “witch hunting.” However, it is being touted that in order for the new government to be effective certain changes and replacements are necessary since under the old Administration the trend of pumping up “friends and family,” into key public positions aided in the deterioration of State management.

As it relates to the State media, the APNU+AFC Coalition was allowed almost no access to the state resources, some of which has country-wide reach such as the National Communication Network (NCN).

The Guyana Information Agency (GINA) and the Chronicle newspaper also gave little to no positive coverage to other political parties in the country. During the 2015 election campaign, the Coalition literally begged publicly for airtime and space within the state media.

In one case, the Coalition was told by NCN that they would only be allowed to air their campaign material 10 minutes for free while they would have to pay for any additional time. On the other hand the former government had their campaign advertisements running none stop and the agency was even positioning to air the PPP’s final political rally live.

This did not materialize however, because the Coalition kicked up a storm, claiming that should they air the PPP rally, then the same must be done for all other political parties.  Apart from this other means of communication that were “immorally” given out to family and friends by the former administration will also come under the microscope.

additional reporting by Denis Chabrol