CARIBBEAN BROADCASTING UINION ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – Address by CBU President, Shida Bolai

18 – 21 August, 2014

GOOD MORNING

Thank you esteemed Chairman, Mr. Guno Cooman.

Your Excellency, Mr. Desire´ Bouterse, President of the Republic of Suriname.

Honourable Falisie J. Pinas, Minister of Transport, Communication and Tourism

Mrs. Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU

Members of the diplomatic corps,

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen,

Colleagues and Friends

This year, we are especially blessed to be in Suriname, a country of unique character, proud history and rich diversity. And, once again, we have the privilege of gathering to share experiences and discuss priority issues facing the broadcast community of the Caribbean region. I am honoured to be President of this institution as we mark this 45th renewal of the CBU’s feature event the AGA. After all, with the many challenges we all face, how many institutions in this region have been able to maintain an unbroken record of forty-five consecutive annual meetings.

Let me first express the deepest gratitude of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union to President Bouterse for gracing this 45th Annual General Assembly. We accept your presence here as an expression of Suriname’s commitment to deepening the regional integration process and supporting the aspirations of Caribbean broadcasters.

Our thanks as well to Mr. Guno Cooman and the Local Organising Committee for the CBU Two Thousand And Fourteen (2014) Annual General Assembly. You have done a splendid job! Thank you. We would also like to welcome and thank our Forum sponsors and partners, the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, CARIMAC from the University of the West Indies and UNESCO.

The theme of this year’s assembly very aptly frames the CBU’s priorities at this moment in its life and that of the region it serves.

Broadcasting, Bonding the Caribbean through Policy, Technology and Programming” speaks to the goal of further integrating the region by using the tools uniquely available to broadcasters.

The issues selected for special focus over the course of these three days describe the priority challenges and opportunities facing the region’s broadcasters.

Sports rights; the Caribbean Single Market and Economy; Digital Transition; Training and Capacity-Building; Gender and Media are all live issues today.

In sports, the long-stable broadcast landscape is under significant pressures of change, with new for-pay entrants asserting their dominance over the traditional mass purveyors of sports programming, the Free-to-Air broadcasters. How will the sector and what are the options for peaceful and prosperous co-existence? For the answers, we will look to our panelists from the West Indies Cricket Board, International Media Company Limited/Sportsmax, DirecTV Caribbean and the CBU. We are certain that through honest, respectful engagement all stakeholders can find common ground and win-win solutions.

While the matter of the region’s single economy has retreated into the background, the CARICOM single market is well and truly upon us, opening up possibilities while demanding much more of each of us.

To position the Union’s members for exploiting existing and emerging opportunities, we have brought together a panel of experts from the media sector and the CARICOM Secretariat and look forward to their input. We are particularly excited about the brand new primary research conducted for this Forum and which will be the subject of joint publication before the next AGA.

We come now to the hot-button topic of Digital Switch-over. For many of our members, this is a do-or-die issue with far-reaching implications for the industry and the region as a whole. We have been struggling with this issue for years and the time to act decisively is upon us. Hard decisions have to be taken and, if this industry is to survive intact, workable solutions have to be found.

In this, we see the Caribbean Telecommunications Union as a partner and champion. The urgency of this issue is reflected in the distinguished panel of experts that we have brought together, from within the region and beyond, to help inform and guide our response to this high priority item.

I should add that the CBU’s DSO position paper, published earlier this year is a key document for consultation by CARICOM heads of government in their deliberations on ICT policy.

At our last AGA in Guyana, a resolution was passed by the membership to policy makers and regulators to work with the local and regional broadcasters on the selection of acceptable standards, educating the public and to take note that this is indeed a very costly exercise that will have to be thought through and timed accordingly.

The impact of the transition offers both hope and risk. Even as all stakeholders look forward to the digital dividend, consideration must be given to the possible digital drop-off.

We are particularly impelled by international developments, as the ITU prepares to bring together states and other stakeholders at the World Radio communication Conference in November Two Thousand And Fifteen (2015).

A key decision on the agenda of WRC-15 relates to opening up access to parts of the spectrum which have traditionally been reserved for broadcasters. The studies conducted by broadcasters across the globe, who are members of the World Broadcasting Unions, and other stakeholders on possible sharing with telecommunications providers provide evidence of serious risk of interference to the current and future operations of free-to-air and satellite transmitted broadcasting in the Caribbean if the WRC-15 agrees to sharing.

The CBU is forcefully calling on Governments in the region to protect broadcast services from changes that will limit broadcast services in fulfilling their public mandate to facilitate the enjoyment of citizens’ rights to free access to information and diversity of media voices.

Training and Capacity-building are issues that never leave the CBU’s agenda. They are recurring themes that reflect both our recognition of the need as well as our commitment and that of our partners.

In January we hosted CSME training for senior journalists.

In March, we hosted a successful training workshop with the support of IPDC and look forward to deepening the collaboration.

We are currently making plans for training this year into next year in tapeless workflow, responsible coverage of children’s issues and investigative journalism in the digital age, among other areas. Respected academic, broadcast regulator and telecommunications policy-maker Prof. Hopeton Dunn is here with us this year to offer insights on media capacity-building to which we eagerly look forward.

Gender and Media is a relatively new area of focus for us even though we have been living the reality of its many implications for a long time. We are honoured to have a panel of advocates and experts in tackling this issue and are thankful for the support provided by UNESCO.

We look forward to building on the results of the pilot project on Gender Sensitive Indicators in Media by helping our members to establish relevant and workable gender-sensitive policies in their organisations.

One of the key champions of this follow-up project is our own Board Director, Corletha Ollivierre, who has been recognised by UNESCO and is now a member of the International Steering Committee of the Global Alliance on Media and Gender.

We at the CBU are extremely proud of the partnership established in March Two Thousand And Fourteen (2014) with another UN agency, the Barbados and Eastern Caribbean office of UNDP for supporting the dissemination of the achievements of the Youth-IN project. The CBU is honoured to partner with the UNDP in addressing one of the key issues of the region; unlocking the capacity of youth to contribute to development.

In addition the CBU is playing an integral part in presenting factual, positive images of young people, who often are portrayed through our popular media as the core of the problem instead of our hope for solutions.

Constructed around the Forums is our showcase of Exhibitors’ Presentations and Programme Screenings. After all is said and done, producing and distributing content is at the core of our business.

It is the heart and pulse of our mission and I urge you to prioritise the time during the next few days to connect with exhibitors and screeners and look at their equipment and programmes on display at the Conference Hotel, with a view to purchasing for broadcast in your respective markets.

I must take time during this morning’s event to note that the CBU is ever more mindful of the ongoing challenges of CaribVision – the Pan-Caribbean channel operated by our partially owned subsidiary company, Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC). CaribVision remains the face of our People! It was designed as our flagship across the Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora so our people can tell our story.

Integration was a key motive behind our bold venture into CaribVision. However, sadly after eight and a half years of intensive efforts, it has not been able to find a viable and sustainable business model, largely we believe, because it has been treated as separate from the other regional integration institutions.

The changing media landscape has forced the CBU also to revisit its own mandate and business model. Last AGA in Guyana the membership requested a comprehensive review of our current membership categories and I am pleased to say that the results of the exercise so far will be presented to this AGA here in Suriname.

Since we last met in assembly, the CBU has recorded some progress in highlighting the achievements of regional figures while increasing the stock of indigenous programming.

The Irvine Burgie documentary, launched by the Prime Minister of Barbados in November Two Thousand And Thirteen (2013) , helps to illuminate for younger generations, the contributions and sacrifices of a Caribbean stalwart.

Very appropriately, our finale event will be the Two Thousand And Thirteen (2013) CBU Caribbean Broadcasting Awards where the best in Caribbean broadcast news, features and commercials will be honoured and celebrated at the historic Congreshaal.

This brings me now to the much anticipated…. Beautiful Suriname. All the above topics could be discussed and debated anywhere. What makes our Two Thousand And Fourteen (2014) AGM unique is its location. We are indebted to our hosts for the very warm welcome we have received and look forward to getting to know this member of the Caribbean family even better over the few days we are here. We especially look forward to our special day of camaraderie at the Bergendal Eco & Cultural River Resort on Friday.

In closing let me express a note of personal thanks and gratitude for the support I have received over the course of my first year as your President. Please know that my priority is leadership of an organisation that continues to provide value to its members and the region through strategic collaborations in capacity-building, innovation and advocacy.

Next year, I look forward to welcoming you in Grenada where the CBU will celebrate forty-five years of service to broadcasting and the Caribbean. But for now, let us make our Suriname assembly the one that closed the door on old problems and opened us all to new and exciting horizons.

Once again let me say, we appreciate you Suriname. Wij waarderen het dat u Suriname!

Thank you.

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