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Govt seeks free hour from media
The People’s Partnership administration wants one free hour of media time to air government programmes to inform the public, Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed said on Monday night. “We’re requesting this very respectfully. We are not making any demands,” Mohammed added. He was speaking in the Senate’s 2013 budget debate.
Mohammed, who said there had been some concern about the issue, said the initial suggestion had been for two hours but, he said, there was consensus on seeking only one hour of free airtime from the media. He said while some ministries had received billion-dollar allocations, his had received $69 million for the operations of state-owned CNMG and the Government Information Services Ltd (GISL).
Mohammed said some people might call Government’s information on its work “propaganda,” but the state had a duty to the population to relay its information publicly for people to be properly informed rather than operate on misinformation.
He said the ministry’s draft communication of information policy, which would be released in upcoming months, was committed to press freedom. He said he would “fight to the death” to defend people’s right to speak or publish, even if he disagreed with what they said.
Among opportunities in the policy, he said, was the issue of radio/TV licences, part of which involved agreement for Government to have 14 hours a week of radio/TV time, free. He said it was broken down to two hours daily of free air time. He said T&T had over 30 radio stations and ten television stations.
He said Government would not target prime time slots which attracted high advertising income for media houses. Mohammed said Government’s goal included increasing local content in radio/TV programming. Saying patriotism was at an all-time low, he signalled moves towards establishing a national media archive centre and museum to chronicle the work of journalists over the years.
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