DBS has always been a political football
From its inception in the early 70's, the state's radio station, the Dominica Broadcasting Service (DBS), has experienced constant political meddling and interference in its policy and operational affairs by Prime Ministers. PMs view DBS as the propaganda arm of their parties. They have always issued directives and decrees to the management and Board.
Two of the brilliant and independent minded early radio men at DBS were manager Jeff Charles and popular D.J. Daniel Caudeiron (Papa Dee). They left for the UK and Canada because of political interference by the Patrick John Labour government.
Charles and Papa Dee were succeeded by the dominant voices of (late) Ferdinand Frampton, (late), Barnett Defoe and manager Dennis Joseph just about time when PM John consolidated his power. The PM demanded total loyalty from the DBS management and Board because it owed and dominiated the Dominican airways as there were no alternatives. Back then the unwritten and unofficial call letters for DBS were PBS- not Public Broadcasting Service, but Patrick Broadcasting Service.
In spite of their hard-line partisan politics and strong allegiance to 'Colonel' John, Joseph and Frampton were brilliant and confident radio men who knew their craft. I have nostalgic memories of listening to these guys and the BBC on my small battery powered transistor radio while growing up in the La Plaine Valley.
But in politics there are no permanent friends. Long after Frampton (RIP) retired from radio, he became a fair and balanced vocal critic of the current Labour regime. But today anyone who is alive or dead and does not fully embrace the regime is punished swiftly and severely. Was this the only reason behind the silly DBS Board's decision not to cover Frampton's funeral last week? Did it take into consideration or knew that its competitors automatically agreed to air the proceedings without being asked or paid by the family?
Anthropologists remind us that the degree of trouble and confusion that a community, nation and people are in are measured by the level of dignity and respect with which it buries its leaders. Frampton although he was not a high ranking government official, was certainly a leader in the small and influential media community. His treatment by DBS' Board in death points to the undeniably reality that Dominica today has huge political, leadership and economic problems and troubles. How long can this be sustained?
But just when the news and anger of the Board's juvenile decision rapidly punctured and impregnated the airways and went viral, the Boss man (Skerrit) seized the political moment by parachuting from somewhere like Batman and overruled the decision. In so doing Skerrit also erased all doubts that DBS' new unwritten call letters are SBS- Skerrit Broadcasting Service. The irony is that Skerrit is probable responsible for the Board's behaving like a bunch of cowards and slowly developing confused juveniles. Could all this be a set up to make Skerrit look good?
DBS' Board lack of respect and indignation of a former manager in death shows that it interprets or/gets its strict marching orders from the Boss. It is also a prime example of Skerrit's scotch earth, plunder and pillage new brand of divide and conquer politics-'Better red than dead'. This has poisoned and handicapped the best and brightest members and leaders of our cornerstone institutions (e.g. the police and judiciary) and country.
Therefore there is a crying urgency to ensure that our next generation does not accept or settle for an absence of the insidious threat of the continued abridgement of operations freedom at the state radio station by future PMs, their collaborators and agents.
The state radio station should be used as a powerful medium to foster tolerance, vision and enlightenment. It should be able and allowed to play its part fully in lubricating the democratic processes and aiding economic and social development and dignifying our leaders regardless of their political affiliations or persuasions. Given the history of DBS, we may have passed that exit point.