Caribbean Media Houses Urge Stronger Effort To Counter ‘Unverified’ COVID-19 Information

(CMC) — The Barbados-based Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) has ended its annual general assembly calling for a strong effort to counter the current “unleashing of unverified information” about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic mainly through social media channels.

The CBU, comprising primarily broadcasting and print organisations, says a “deluge of claims, theories and beliefs are being paraded to citizens of the region, who are now either confused or frightened into inaction by them”.

The delegates at the 52nd general assembly that was held virtually, said that well-researched information from credible sources that can help contain the spread of COVID-19 and guide people on best practices in the pandemic “are being ignored, in deference to other outlandish claims”.

A CBU statement issued following the end of the meeting late Tuesday, noted that members from more than 15 countries reported on the mainly negative impact of COVID-19 on their operations and businesses but said most of their staff members have remained uninfected and healthy during the pandemic.

“The exception was Jamaica, where numerous cases of the virus was reported to have afflicted media workers with at least two deaths being linked to the disease. The media entities said that without taking a position for or against vaccinations against the disease, it was clear that audiences were being confused by some of the messaging in social media and no clear communications strategy had emerged from health authorities to counter this development,” the CBU noted.

It said that most media reported a decline in business, due to increased costs and declining revenues due to the pandemic, with Jamaica being the exception, reporting improved profitability during the period.

The media professionals agreed that in the past year media have been forced to focus more on their customers’ needs rather than what media think their customers need to have.

“It was also indicated that greater creativity and use of digital analytical tools were used to add to the attractiveness of media’s offerings to clients. In the meantime, media entities have again expressed serious concern about the lack of recognition of their intellectual property rights as many commercial users believe they can simply take and use their content on different platforms without negotiating acceptable arrangements for such use,” the CBU said.

It said members have echoed the sentiments of the outgoing president, Gary Allen, who has called on policymakers to join Australia, Europe and North American moves to require internet-based tech companies to negotiate fair usage arrangements with journalistic-based local media for use of their content on their global platforms.

Allen was not eligible for re-election having served for four consecutive years. The chief executive officer of the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas, Kayleaser Deveaux-Isaacs, was elected the new president of the CBU with Claire Grant of Radio and Television Jamaica being elected vice president.

Anthony Greene (of STARCOM Network Inc, Barbados), Sushilla Jadoonanan (DirecTV Caribbean in Trinidad and Tobago) and Dionne John (National Broadcasting Corporation of St Vincent and the Grenadines) were re-elected to the board with the members being Richard Purcell of CCN-TV6 (Trinidad and Tobago), Keith Campbell (Public Broadcastinag Corporation of Jamaica), Christopher Jarrett of Radio Turks and Caicos, Emiliana Bernard-Stephenson of Teleislas, Colombia.