ST. LUCIA-MEDIA-Opposition urges government to re-think closure of state-owned radio station

CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Aug 1, CMC – The main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has called on the government to re-think its decision to shut down the state-owned radio station with a senior official of the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organisation for Music Rights (ECCO), indicating that the Allen Chastanet administration may have missed a chance to find creative ways of keeping the station operational.

“You don’t want any media house to go out of business, particularly one that has a very strong historical and development role that it has played over the years,” said ECCO chief executive officer, Steve Etienne.

RSLEtienne said the closure of Radio St. Lucia (RSL) was sad for a number of reasons, noting that the station was a main source for local content, debate and educational programmes.

“It was the station for the people,” the ECCO official said, noting however that there are many more radio stations now operating locally which has created a more competitive environment and putting RSL at a disadvantage.

The SLP has also criticised the decision to shut down the station saying that “it is regrettable that the government did not find it possible to find a suitable formula to keep RSL open”.

In a statement, the SLP said that it does not accept the excuse that no suitable solution could be found to keep RSL, which has been in operation here for more than five decades, open.

“The SLP calls on the government to rethink its position on the closing of other statutory boards and give first priority to the jobs of the workers of these organisations,” the statement said.

In announcing plans for the station’s closure Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Information and Broadcasting, Dominic Fedee, said the station had been abused by successive administrations.

“Radio St. Lucia was really intended to be a national radio station to enlighten our country, to fill the void that maybe the private media may have left,” said Fedee, a former employee, adding that RSL had been ‘contaminated’ by a lot of political propaganda.

“I don’t think it is fair to taxpayers of our country to have a situation where they pay the brunt of the cost for messages of political parties,” Fedee said, noting that there the prevailing economic situation in the country made it virtually impossible for the government to continue to fund RSL.

Fedee said a report from the board of the directors confirmed that the station had incurred debts estimated at more than a million dollars (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents), including an estimated EC$400,000 owed to the National Insurance Corporation (NIC).

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