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The BBC and T&T's Identity
Posted: Sunday, July 11, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

The decision to issue 13 new commercial FM radio licences by Public Administration Minister Dr. Lenny Saith (Newsday July 7, p.5) that resulted in the second rejection of the application of the Mahasabha/Central Radio establishes a worrying and dangerous precedent in democratic T&T.

The decision constitutes a flagrant violation by the Executive of the recent judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Carlton Best in giving judicial credence to the Mahasabha's constitutional motion that the Government was guilty of discrimination in not granting a radio licence to the largest Hindu organisation that is incorporated by an Act of Parliament.

Equality in diversity has been flushed down the drains.

How often will the Executive in the future ignore the judgments of the Judiciary including the Appeal Courts in discrimination motions? Will individual redress and reliefs sought for State violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in our 1976 Constitution continue to be sought from our Courts when the State ignores its decisions? The role of the Courts as the arbiter of last resort against discriminatory-based State conduct has been diminished and vandalised by this list of FM licensees.

Why the need for more commercial-oriented stations when there are already 19 competing on the airwaves? Should not Community/Special interest/religious organisations have been accorded precedence and the commercial stations frozen?

The radio licence issue highlights the need for the adoption by Parliament of an official policy/regime on multiculturalism. This is the only viable alternative for achieving fairness and equality in Trinbago. The current regime for issuing broadcast licences accords precedence to individualism and commercial fronts over and above the compelling need to recognise religious/cultural organisations that underpin our cosmopolitanism.

I find it quite puzzling and indeed quite amazing that having regard to the citeria applied by the Technical Committee in recommending licences that the BBC is awarded an FM licence but not the Mahasabha. Additionally at least two licensees who were awarded previously and sold these licences at great profit have now been granted additional licences under different commercial incarnations. Are we encouraging and developing an illegal trade in media licences?

What can the BBC contribute to "TT's identity and culture" as well as to " the requirements of the various interest groups in TT"?

I submit that the Mahasabha/Radio Central constitutes the largest religious/cultural interest group in T&T and is best poised and qualified to "contribute to the development of TT's identity and culture" if we can agree on the principal elements of that identity and culture.

Who said vacuously last Independence Day "We have a special responsibility to cherish our diversity" and proceeds to act as if diversity does not matter and does not exist in T&T?

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