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Aug 4, 2004

C.B.U.?s 35th AGM officially opens in Placencia

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This morning, government representatives, diplomatic officials, and more than a hundred media personnel from throughout the region met in Placencia for the opening of the thirty-fifth Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union. The region?s industry leaders are in Belize to discuss the state and direction of the Caribbean media. News 5?s Patrick Jones reports.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

The thirty-fifth annual general meeting opened on Wednesday morning, with President of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union Vic Fernandes giving an upbeat report of the organization?s work over the last twelve months. Fernandes told delegates that all nine resolutions coming out of last year?s Annual General Assembly in Curacao have either been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. But while the mandate given by the General Assembly have been fulfilled in the form of the shareholders agreement on Caribbean Media Corporation, and new headquarters for the C.B.U., Fernandes says many challenges lie ahead.

Vic Fernandes, President, C.B.U.

?When year after year our urgency to regional leaders to find the formula to make a Caribbean programme development fund a reality, gets a lot of long talk, but no tangible action. I am convinced that our work is not yet done. And as I reflect on the realization that for decades the vast majority of funding for our broadcast development in the region have come from agencies outside of our region, I must accept that our work is not yet done. Over these past few months, the Secretary General and I have visited many Caribbean countries of the union. It is sad commentary that as I speak to you this morning, many broadcasting organizations are unable to meet their basic obligations to the C.B.U. due to lack of financial resources. Colleagues, our work is not yet done.?

Fernandes pulled no punches, maintaining that Regional Governments have not helped, and may have even contributed, to a deterioration of media standards in the Caribbean.

Vic Fernandes

?Our Governments have significantly expanded licensing, but are we getting the diversity expected? Instead, we have expanded quantity faster than quality. We have regressed not progressed and clearly, our work is not yet done. The Caribbean single market and economy is imminent and still some Caribbean people are treated with hostility in certain Caribbean countries in our region. There is perception that the definition of skilled labour revolves around a nexus with U.W.I. degrees. I submit that we must also recognize our builders, plumbers, road and agricultural specialists in the region as skilled labourer too. And because of that we, need to bring this concept to a realization and that our work is not yet done.?

In his key note address, Belize?s Prime Minister Said Musa, urged the region?s media organizations to inform their audience about topics that affect their daily lives.

Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize

?We need our journalists to get on board with these issues and I am saying this because certainly in Belize, I don?t think they are. To get on board with the difficulties we are facing with our traditional exports (such as) bananas, and sugar, in the case of Guyana, rice–rum for some. These are not issues to be left just to the politicians to be arguing about. On a more positive note it is so encouraging to see that our media in the Caribbean are taking a very proactive approach to today to some of the major issues affecting our people, such as HIV/AIDS.?

Prime Minister Musa also contends that journalists must accept the responsibilities that come with their jobs.

Said Musa

?We need now to indeed establish a consensus on content sensitivity and a code of ethics for the media in Belize. All the other profession seems to want to police themselves and to be left alone. And you know what happens when there is a vacuum; if you don?t police yourself, somebody else is going to do it for you. So we need that code of ethics established in Belize. I note that the Caribbean Broadcasting Union has formulated and is promoting a set of guidelines; a code of ethics which I believe can form the basis for such consensus in Belize.?

According to C.B.U. President Fernandes, the groundwork for this organization?s continued development have already been put in motion.

Vic Fernandes

?Through the Lome four project, we have the capacity to deliver to the Caribbean the Caribbean experience in our region and in the Diaspora. This is the most exiting development in the media in many decades. The Caribbean Media Corporation too is on the road to recovery and it must move speedily to implement the decision and the vision that have been outlined to secure and enhance its future. It must become the provider of those additional financial resources, which will allow our union to meet its mandate and mission to members. Clearly, colleagues, our work is not yet done and I ask you to play your part in ensuring that while the journey is not over, the road ahead is filled with opportunity and with optimism.?

After the opening ceremonies, delegates sat down with equipment providers for a full briefings and presentations on the latest technology in the industry. The first plenary session of the twenty-fifth Annual General Assembly of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union is set for Thursday morning at the Inn at Robert?s Grove, in the coastal village of Placencia, in southern Belize. Patrick Jones, For News 5.

There are currently twenty-five licensed radio stations on fifty-one radio frequencies broadcasting in Belize. Twelve television station licenses have been issued, but only eight are operating. As for cable companies, there are twenty-eight presently providing service countrywide. Only two media houses have full membership in the C.B.U.: Great Belize Productions and Love FM.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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