18 August 2014
Madam Chair, Ms. Carla Betuis
Your Excellency, Mr. Desi Bouterse, President of Suriname
Mrs. Shida Bolai President of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and members of the Union’s Board of Directors
Mr. Guno Cooman, Convenor of the Local Organising Committee
Ms. Shurly Lackin, Member of the Local Organising Committee
Ministers of the Suriname government
Members of the diplomatic corps and representatives of international agencies
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my absolute pleasure to stand before you this morning, for my very first address to an Annual General Assembly as the Secretary General of the CBU. While it’s a fearsome and thrilling responsibility, it is also humbling.
Forty-four (44) years ago, when the Caribbean Broadcasting Union was established, its mandate was to use the amazing power of the broadcast media to contribute to Caribbean social and economic development, through the promotion of regional integration.
Today in 2014, that mandate continues, and is being demonstrated in today’s event.
The CBU is honored to be hosted by the people of Suriname and particularly by the broadcast media systems who are currently members, STVS and ATV, as it celebrates this special occasion, the forty-fifth annual general assembly.
I believe it is more than a coincidence that at this time the number of members on the CBU’s roll is exactly forty-five. And while, as in any organization, the levels of activity vary among the membership, I am assured there is one constant, the commitment of every member to the original vision of helping to bring the peoples of the Caribbean together by reflecting our culture and social realities back to ourselves.
There are currently twenty-two countries and territories represented by the Union’s forty-five members, and there is no question that these jurisdictions together represent a wealth of creative talent, and entrepreneurial spirit in the media sector and beyond. However the development challenges still being experienced in our region are evidence of the need to continue to leverage that talent and not be satisfied with past achievements.
The CBU recognizes this and is currently engaged in examination of its very structure and composition to ensure it does not become irrelevant and passé.
The CBU continues to be a repository of significant assets and advantages. No other single medium has the regional reach of the TV channel Caribvision, operated by the Union’s affiliate the Caribbean Media Corporation. Caribvision is transmitted in twenty-two (22) Caribbean markets. It also offers a single entry point for programming to be re-transmitted on free-to-air television stations throughout the region, reaching a total cable and broadcast audience of one and a half million households.
In addition, while there are many well-respected forums for recognizing the achievements of electronic media at the national level. The CBU’s Caribbean Broadcasting Awards, holds pride of place as the regional forum for the celebration of the best of the broadcast media from the English, Dutch and Spanish-speaking Caribbean.
These assets and events are just two of the reasons why it makes sense for CBU not to retire at 45, satisfied that it has made a contribution in the past. But to renew and refresh its approaches to ensure it remains relevant to the Caribbean media sector, and to wider Caribbean sector.
As you have been advised by our President, there is no question that this year’s Annual General Assembly is a true showcase of that relevance. From a Forum on Sports Programming Rights to the publication of brand new research on the opportunities for the media sector under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, no reasonable observer could consider this a navel-gazing exercise.
However, there is also serious introspection taking place which will redound to the benefit of both our media sector as well as Caribbean peoples, as the CBU also places emphasis on the best lessons already learned from the experience of digital transition and in plenary session takes a close look at its composition and continuing mandate. If carried out thoughtfully and with an eye to the rights and interests of all stakeholders the changes underway can mean a CBU which continues to make its mark and can trumpet its achievements to the rest of the region and the world.
Let me quickly end by saying once again a sincere thank you to Suriname for its support to the Union as host of the forty-fifth AGA. I have had the pleasure of achieving a long-held desire of visiting this country, getting a glimpse of its rich culture and meeting what I must describe as the most uniformly warm and pleasant hosts. Wij waarderen het dat u Suriname!
Personally, it has been a learning experience, in many ways, supporting the staging of the AGA, having taken on the role of the head of the Secretariat just seven (7) months ago. But I must say, Suriname’s Local Organizing Committee, headed by CBU Director Mr. Guno Cooman and involving such amazing professionals as Mr. Roy Belfor, has really smoothed the way in this process.
To all participants, I wish you substantive and productive deliberations, enjoyment of our wonderful host country and on leaving the AGA a renewed determination to continue to fulfil our collective goal, the betterment of Caribbean society.
My sincere thanks for your attention.