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Minister with responsibility for Information, Telecommunications and Special Projects, Hon. Daryl Vaz, on July 27 sought to contextualise the issues and set the record straight on the debate pertaining to the time reserved for Government broadcasts in the private media.
Giving the reassurance that the Government’s main intent is to “keep the nation informed,” Mr. Vaz told the House of Representatives during the 2010/11 Sectoral Debate, that there has been a great deal of misunderstanding and miscommunication surrounding the issue.
He noted that the Government’s aim was to simply break up the time allotted into five and three-minute segments to make the information more accessible, listener-friendly and more suited to people’s viewing and listening patterns.
The Minister argued that information was the very lifeblood, the oxygen of a democracy and without an informed, educated and engaged populace, a democracy would not be complete.
“An ignorant or under-informed and apathetic people cannot fully exercise their democratic rights,” posited the Minister. “(The idea) that for communication to be effective, it must adapt to the needs of the target audience is beyond debate,” he added.
Mr. Vaz pointed out that in this age of information overload, people digest information one Sound Byte at a time, and that this was as true for commercial communicators, as well as for Government communicators.
“In fact, there is an even greater imperative for Government communicators to be snappy and concise, because usually the information being given is not naturally seductive enough to maintain interest when juxtaposed with what commercial communicators and advertisers are offering at the same table,” the Minister reasoned.
He said this meant that the burden of creativity rested more strenuously on the shoulders of the Government communicators. “The menu has to be aligned to the taste of our radio and television audiences, that is, there has to be a calibration with the changes which have already taken place and have become standardised in media,” he added.
The Minister pointed out that there was a trend toward “punchier features” in commercial media, and his Ministry believed that if people were accustomed to receiving their information in a particular way, then it should not perpetuate its “anachronism by bucking the trend.”
Mr. Vaz said the Ministry therefore decided to go with the flow and to cater to market needs. As such, from as early as February 3 this year, representatives from his Ministry began negotiations with media managers.
He informed that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) and her team went in and spoke with the media managers of the various media entities to discuss with them the Ministry’s desire to be more cutting-edge.
The JIS CEO also told media managers of the Government’s intention to break up its half-an-hour format which it has been using, for more than 50 years, Mr. Vaz further told the House.
“Let the people of Jamaica be assured that the burden of our efforts is to keep the nation informed – to ensure the citizenry has access to credible official information and in a time already provided for in broadcast licences,” he said.
Minister Vaz said a sample list of the programmes produced by the JIS in this new paradigm should illustrate the expanse of useful information which may be covered utilising this approach.
He said topics covered by the programmes included: ‘Applying for electrical connection’; ‘European Union funds’; ‘400 to benefit from Youth Employment Project’; ‘Help for the small business owner’ and ‘How to apply to the Path Programme’. The Minister said it was important for the public to look at the actual data of what the JIS programmes were about, before making a judgment.
“I ask that we be less emotive, caustic and mistrustful of each other’s motives. We have to give each other the benefit of the doubt and this is why track record is important,” he said.

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