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Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman has said that with global media now been organized in a new way and making an impact on broadcasting, the traditional thinking of communication and broadcasting must be rethought.
“For example, it is very clear that while once upon a time, telecommunications providers would not be able to own broadcast entities, it is happening more and more and telecommunications entities are developing content, working with broadcasters and in fact, are seeking to own a piece of the broadcasting action. There are many benefits to be derived, there are also some dangers there, but these are some of the implications that we have to wrestle with,” he stated.
Senator Whiteman was addressing a public policy seminar yesterday (Dec.14) on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, on the outcomes of the second World Summit on the Information Society (WISIS), which was held last month in the North African state of Tunis.
The Information Minister, who spoke on the topic: ‘Implications for Broadcasting and Communication Policy,’ said consumers of broadcasting and media products were now becoming more powerful, dictating content and presentation of content.
“Right now, the simple telephone is the receiver not of audio or text message alone, but it is receiving radio and television as well, so that how the broadcaster shapes his or her message, how he or she conceives of a programme is already becoming very different, because the broadcaster is aware of the medium through which the viewer is receiving the message,” he said.
“The technology is giving the end user real power and it is shaping the way in which the consumer thinks about himself and his/her world,” the Information Minister continued.
On the matter of national development, Senator Whiteman asserted that it was very clear that due to development in broadband in addition to various communication technologies, “we have to be using the media more and more now in terms of both the formal and public education of our people. We need to make sure that in all of that, we focus on good quality production, good quality presentation and content. Clearly, we have to have quality control and ensure that what is done is in the best interest of the country”.
In terms of the commitment to joined-up government, Senator Whiteman said, “we do in fact recognize that these are the days when you have to be operating in partnership and networking”.
He made note of the information committee, which is a sub committee of Cabinet, which comprises representatives of the Ministries of Commerce, Science and Technology, Education, Youth and Culture, and Information, along with the various entities such as the Spectrum Management Authority, and the Broadcasting Commission, among others.
Senator Whiteman said the committee would continue to be guided and assisted by all the relevant agencies to ensure that, “we develop policies which are relevant and which help us to not only bridge the digital divide but bridge the development divide in our own country and between us and the rest of the world”.
The seminar, which is the first such follow-up public forum to be held in the region, was hosted by the Telecommunications Policy and Management Programme (TPM) at the Mona School of Business in association with the Central Information Technology Office (CITO).
The objective was to identify specific policy initiatives locally and regionally that could be pursued to the benefit of national and regional institutions. Director, Telecommunications Policy and Management Programme, Dr. Hopeton Dunn, who chaired the event, indicated that a second follow-up meeting would be held in February or March of next year following consultations with CITO.
Among those in attendance were Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, Dr. Jean Dixon; Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Patricia Sinclair-McCalla; and Senior Project Officer for ICT Development at CARICOM, Jennifer Britton.
The Tunis conference, held from November 16 to 18, was a two-part United Nations (UN) meeting, managed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and was aimed at developing a global framework to tackle the challenges presented by the information society. The first world summit took place in Geneva, from December 10-12, 2003.