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Sep 24, 1998

Committee formed to oversee closing of B.C.B.

(incomplete on yesterday’s newscast)

He may be working himself out of a significant portion of his portfolio, but Minister of Tourism, Broadcasting and Information Mark Espat has reaffirmed his government’s manifesto pledge to divest itself of the Broadcasting Corporation of Belize. In a press release issued on Tuesday the ministry announced the appointment of a small committee to oversee the process, which is expected to be completed well before year’s end. The Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Godfrey Smith, will chair the group, whose two other members are accountant Warren Coye and media veteran Glenn Tillett. Anne Wade will serve as secretary. At present the committee is canvassing opinion in the broadcasting community but the consensus seems to be that the B.C.B., which has benefited from monthly government subsidies while at the same time competing with private sector broadcasters, will simply be shut down and its assets sold. Of prime concern to government in carrying out this process is to help the over thirty B.C.B. employees to find new jobs and to ensure that existing operations will fill the vacuum in public service broadcasting which will be left by the departure of the government owned station. Observers have long noted that Belize has far too many radio, television and cable stations for its small population and as a result the private broadcast industry has lived for many years on the edge of bankruptcy. While the shutting down of the B.C.B. will not solve the industry’s problems it should help give broadcasters a more realistic chance to grow and establish their viability as strong and independent voices of the community.

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