Peter Simmons’ Editorial On Talk Radio Is Conflicted, Misses An Important Point – Example: The Prime Minister’s New York Hotel Bill!

Peter Simmons Says: How Dare Citizens Question Government Without The Correct Information! (And No, Citizens Are Not Allowed To Know Government Information You Stupid People!)

In today’s Nation News, activist and former diplomat Peter Simmons authors an interesting article about talk shows – interesting only as far as it goes and more for what he doesn’t say. He had the start of an excellent piece, but he just couldn’t bring himself to take the story to the obvious conclusion.

Neither did Simmons include the impact of blogs in the story which would have been a natural had the article been published in another country where the media is not so tightly controlled by the government.

Peter Simmons’ article comes across as rather conflicted – probably like the man himself. He has been vocal in the fight against placing the proposed Caribbean Splash Waterpark in the Graeme Hall watershed despite the fact that his old friend the Prime Minister approved the water park in secret meetings with the American developer Matthew Kerins. Even in today’s article, Peter Simmons calls the water park an “abomination” – maintaining a position that is distinctly at odds with those Bajan political and business elites who will make huge personal dollars if public efforts to have a Graeme Hall National Park fail.

Yet for all his good work at Graeme Hall, Peter Simmons cannot shed his elitist attitudes about the government keeping information secret from the citizens of Barbados.

Being a former diplomat representing the government of Barbados, as well as the brother of Chief Justice (and former Attorney General) Sir David Simmons, Peter Simmons is obviously well connected. By virtue of family and old friendships he is still privy to inside information that ordinary folks aren’t allowed to know in a stratified society like Barbados where government insiders regularly profit from restricting citizens’ access to information.

Peter Simmons’ theme in his article is that people have to be careful of the information that callers sometimes spout as gospel because it is often incorrect – either by accident or because of an intent of the caller to spread wrong information for political gain.

That is all true, although if Mr. Simmons had been entirely honest with himself and his readers he would have mentioned that the government is often a major player at spreading information and disinformation for political gain and that the Barbados media is often – even daily – nothing more than a government mouth piece.

After establishing that callers sometimes provide wrong information, Mr. Simmons then cites various examples where talk show hosts, Ministers of Government and he himself have had to take to the media to provide the “correct” information to citizens.

But in detailing these stories, Peter Simmons gives a unique glimpse into the minds of those elites who believe that citizens have no right to information unless government chooses to dispense it – for in examples cited by Simmons the information at issue is something that citizens in truly democratic countries have access to by rights established with Freedom of Information laws.

Barbados has no freedom of information laws.

Even members of the opposition are often unable to gain access to everyday information. The concealment and misuse of what should be public information is a foundation of the current government’s power. That is why in 14 years of majority government, strongman Owen Arthur and his gang have never even considered Freedom of Information laws that would give citizens access to information that their tax dollars paid for.

Peter Simmons proudly gives an example of Environment Minister Liz Thompson coming on the air to clear up a misstatement by a caller over the price of the new trams at Harrison’s Cave – but he totally misses the point. That information should have been freely available to all citizens along with all other details of the work being done at Harrison’s Cave: Who has the contracts? How much is being paid for what work? Are any of the contractors in any way associated with government members or their families? Were the contracts put out to tender? IF there were open bids (and that is a big IF around this corrupt place) what were those bids and the scope of work?

Peter Simmons shows that as a connected elite, he too believes that information collected on behalf of Barbados citizens can be withheld or dispensed by government at will – like the unaccountable dictatorship that our Barbados government has truly become.

Speaking Of King Arthur – He’s Paying HOW MUCH For A Hotel Room? !!!!!!!!!!!

Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur is in New York City and will be addressing the United Nations tomorrow, on Monday, September 24, 2007.

How Much Is Owen’s Hotel Charge?

Sources say that the bill for Strongman Owen Arthur’s hotel suite is US$15,000 per night.

Yup… that’s right folks. Fifteen thousand U.S. dollars per night.

Detailed expense accounts for all elected members should be available to citizens. It is our money.

Mr. Prime Minister: Publish your expense accounts on line to be seen by all citizens or SHUT UP about transparency and responsible government.

From The Nation News (link here)…

GUEST COLUMN: The role of talk radio
Published on: 9/23/07.

BY PETER SIMMONS

TALK RADIO, such as our call-in programmes, is the fastest growing segment of broadcast journalism in democratic societies worldwide. Their popularity and pervasive influence have made them an invaluable component of our post-Independence democratic architecture.

They have become “the peoples’ Parliament”, a platform for the “voiceless” from which the average Barbadian and some non-nationals can air their views through a free phone call, if they can get past the busy signal.

Their influence is daily demonstrated on national and parochial issues. Example: My friend “Poo” Franklyn was calling the relevant authorities for months to report that a fallen bus stop in his neighbourhood was creating problems.

No action. A call to the Monday morning programme and by midday Tuesday the pole was erect again. Six months of frustration ended by ventilating the problem on air.

Through the years, I have never had any doubts about the overarching influence of these programmes and the good that they can do.

I called during my years as a political activist. I also called as a High Commissioner to share information with the taxpayers who paid my salary, once to clear the air on accusations made against a preeminent Barbadian by a British gold-digger.

More recently, I have used the call-in programmes to carry the fight to those promoting the abomination of a water park at Graeme Hall where I live.

I write, therefore, from an empirical base as a long-standing, avid listener and occasional contributor, and wish to reflect here on two recent happenings representing the good and bad of talk radio.

A caller with a distinctly non-Barbadian accent, made serious allegations against staff of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) on CBC’s Talk Yuh Talk programme. The moderator Sidney Simmons (no relation) asked her a number of searching questions which were unsatisfactorily answered.

Committed to discovering the truth, he went in person to the QEH, presented the allegations to the staff and got the facts. Sadly, they bore no relation to the comments made by the caller.

The next day he put the record straight on air.

This novel approach raised the bar for moderators, and Sidney deserves our collective kudos in what represented both the good and bad of the call-ins and puts the spotlight on callers and moderators.

Moderating a call-in cannot be easy. I recall the late Oliver Jackman, one of the most self-confident Barbadians I ever met, saying that a short stint on Guttaperk caused loss of sleep wondering what curveballs he would have to face next day.

Generally, our moderators do a good job. Indeed, at least two of them would hold their own anywhere. Some are recognised as serious opinion-shapers and treated with the reverence of Sparrow – “if he say so, is so”.

However, too often in recent times, some moderators have come across as using the airwaves as bully pulpits; some curt and cantankerous, others hectoring and prosecutorial, some seeming know-alls unwilling to hear callers out and hurrying them off the air.

A recent exchange between a Cabinet minister and a moderator labelled “a politician”, to the latter’s considerable amusement, was instructive. Was the minister strengthened in his conviction by the way the moderator had earlier hurried two well-known BLP callers off the air?

Lest they forget, these are the callers’ programmes. Stop them if they cross the crease of acceptable comment or deliberately try to peddle misleading information. Listening and constructive interaction make for better radio than being subjected to a tiresome soliloquy by moderators or callers.

Those were the qualities buttressed by the fine art of cutting a caller’s throat with a feather which made Andrew Hatch our moderator emeritus.

A challenging down side is the overbearing and repetitive political drivel polluting the programmes daily and turning off listeners. Last week a prolific caller lamented that “$12.5 million of the taxpayers money” had been spent by Government buying six new trams for the retrofitted Harrison’s Cave.

The moderator, clearly skeptical and in search of the truth, promised to investigate. The caller was adamant. Not only were the figures given by the Minister of the Environment, they were given on the floor of the House of Assembly, he alleged.

Minister of the Environment Elizabeth Thompson quickly and commendably came on the air and gave a full rebuttal of the caller’s claim pointing out that the trams cost just over $5 million. She also sent the full facts and figures to the moderator, the entire exercise worthy of emulation.

The dangerous mischief implicit in what this self-proclaimed political operative put abroad, was not just that he had misled the listening public but, no less serious, that the minister had misled the House. Catspraddled by the facts, he never called to apologise.

When the smell of paint on the ballot boxes is in the air, there is increased pressure on moderators. How they keep deliberate mischief off the airwaves and maintain their impartiality will be the litmus test of their acquired skills and one of the best guarantees of the fairness and sustainability of talk radio.

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17 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Blogging, Freedom Of The Press, News Media, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption

17 responses to “Peter Simmons’ Editorial On Talk Radio Is Conflicted, Misses An Important Point – Example: The Prime Minister’s New York Hotel Bill!

  1. Pogo

    Mr. Simmons seems to fail to realize there are maybe at least three sides to the things we hear on the talk shows: the caller’s views, the government’s views and the truth. Mostly they be different and we know that but are thankful when discussion takes place.

    And it may be true that Minister Thompson enlightened us with the real story about the trams it is more likely that she, with Mr. Simmons cheering her on, did not give the whole story which we would love to hear and thanks for the caller raising it.

    Same of the hospital. Call shows are not fact missions and interviewing a few staff -did they know they were being watched? does not tell us much.

    Hey you can help out here Mr. Simmons and can tell everyone if the pictures of QEH shown here in BFP last week have been checked out? Did Billie Miller really eat off the floors at QEH?

    Mr. Simmons you could do us a real favor here by getting all the tram project documents and visiting the hospital yourself. You are an honourable man and even though your plugged into government your views would be welcome.

  2. Anonymous

    Honourable man what!

    Without his brother being part of the BLP elite and now Chief Justice – where would Peter Simmons be?

    What is his claim to fame?

    His article is only intended to take a swipe at Tony Marshall who was quite firm with 2 BLP callers trying to spin the issues on the flyover and Clyde Mascoll’s response.

    It seems he is also very upset with Tony Marshall for pressing Mascoll to explain these ‘cost overruns’.

    Honourable man indeed!

    The only reason I believe he came out against the water park because it was going to be in his back yard and have serious implications for him and probably his property values.

    Have you heard him speaking out against any wrongs of this government? – and there are nuff things that an objective,reasonable,’honourable’ man would speak out against.

    Just another BLP crony I’m afraid.

  3. passin thru

    Peter Simmons is “elitist”

    “A caller with a distinctly non-Barbadian accent…”

    Those immigrants! Was the accent British or Guyanese? How dare THEY call a talk show!

    In the world according to Peter Simmons, it is OK for his friends (as long as they are born Barbadian) to call about a sign knocked down.

    Nothing else is to be discussed though!

    The BLP are losing control of the conversations, the media and the subjects of debates and they are mighty uncomfortable.

    Expect more like Simmons trying to argue that there shouldn’t be “free” debates!

    Thank God we have talk shows and the internet.

  4. Anonymous

    Passin Thru

    The caller was a guyanese woman who was here illegally and pregnant.

    She told Sidney Simmons the moderator on CBC Monday morning call in show – that members of the the QEH staff were hassling her.

    When Simmons checked he found out that she had 5 ID cards and claimed she didnot have her passport – because she sent it back to guyana to get a new ‘machine readable’ one and was refusing to bring any form of ID.

    NB She was working alright?

    I thought the real story there that Peter Simmons omitted was: how did this illegal woman get 5 ID cards,and how can we stop this practice of guyanese coming here to have a child in barbados?

    Not about moderators and Tony Marshall.

  5. Bajagirl

    Regarding the controversy regarding trams at Harrison’s cave,
    The June 13, 2007, Nation Newspaper states, “The Minister [Liz Thompson] said part of the upgrade would include delivery of six new purpose-built, environmentally friendly trams (valued at $12.5 million), some of which were already on the island.”

    On a recent Down to Brass Tacks program, a caller said the trams cost $12.5 million. Liz Thompson called the program and said the trams cost $5 million dollars. Peter Simmons, according to what you published today, says in an article, “Minister of the Environment Elizabeth Thompson quickly and commendably came on the air and gave a full rebuttal of the caller’s claim pointing out that the trams cost just over $5 million. She also sent the full facts and figures to the moderator, the entire exercise worthy of emulation.”

    Liz Thompson changed the figure from $12.5 million, quoted in the June 13, 2007, Nation newspaper, to $5 million on Brass Tacks.

  6. Can't touch this

    1 million per ‘tram’.

    Did we buy them from fabricators/manufacturers, or did we pay an intermediate?

    Was that US dollars?

    Smaller than prisons or roads, but fits the pattern, wouldn’t Mr. Simmons have to agree?

    Can’t put the moderating finger on this one? That’s a bit of a problem.

  7. Roger Rabbitt

    Liz Thompson seems to be trying hard to overtake Lynch as the most compulsive liar in the BLP. She still has a long way to go, but no one can ever say that she is not trying.
    She would want us to believe that Bajans have short memories, but we do remember her saying that the trams cost $M12.5. Don’t bring the altered “facts”, bring the real deal, Liz.

  8. Waterboy

    From Nation News June 13, 2007. Report of Minister Thompson’s contribution in Parliament. Was the press report accurate? Parliamentary record (Hansard?) would need to be checked.

    “The minister said part of the upgrade would include delivery of six new purpose-built, environmentally-friendly trams (valued at

    $12.5 million), some of which were already on the island.”

    http://bararchive.bits.baseview.com/archive_detail.php?archiveFile=./pubfiles/bar/archive/2007/June/13/Business/39944.xml&start=0&numPer=20&keyword=LIZ+THOMPSON+TRAMS+12.5+MILLION&sectionSearch=&begindate=1%2F1%2F1994&enddate=12%2F31%2F2007&authorSearch=&IncludeStories=1&pubsection=&page=&IncludePages=1&IncludeImages=1&mode=allwords&archive_pubname=Daily+Nation%09%09%09

  9. Can't touch this

    The link says 12.5. So it appears Mr. Simmons is incorrect.

    Peter, you is a ‘B’?

    De 7.5M difference is now a OCM editorial ‘come-in-under-budget-get-catch-doin-it cost saving’?

  10. Baje

    This man can work for the FOX NEWS network, where there claim to be fair and balance, this is yet to be seen.

    What i can give kudos to this government for, is they have so many spin doctors providing their fair and balanced reporting, They must have really taken their tips from the FOX NEWS NETWORK.

    I really love to watch Fox News I get a real laugh. Thanks Fox News

  11. Hants

    Send the link to barsstacks@vob929.com.

    The caller was obviously stating what was written in the Nation.

  12. Waterboy

    The 12.5 million is quoted in the press but is it correct. The press is infamous for getting its facts wrong. We need to know what was actually said in Parliament before we can judge who was correct.

  13. Perceived Corruption

    The Rot is beginning to smell.

  14. Hants

    Waterboy the press is how ordinary citizens get their information and we rely on the press to be accurate in their reporting.

    Hopefully Duguid or Eastman (as regulars on this blog) will clear the air by publishing what was recorded in Hansard.

    These Trams are “patented” and the Government of Barbados owns the patents so I am more inclined to believe the $12.5 million.

  15. Wishing in Vain

    The Gov’t is in one coverup after the other mode.
    They have stolen , raped and extorted vast amounts of money and what do we have to show for 15 years of hard labour under the blp not one damn thing .

  16. LOL

    Much better thought than -8%, layoffs 25% unemployment… endless hardship stealing at ST joseph Hospital.. Like it or lump it.

  17. You steal from the poor

    LOL YES!
    Yes, I agree that it is correct to compare arrogance with arrogance. And the result was the populace kicked the government of the time out.

    Yes, I agree with you, it is time to do this again.

    How dare you steal from the poor?

    How dare you justify your current wrongs?

    The poor pay the VAT.

    Institutionalised government set-up money launderers make off with it! You aren’t shame to admit that you all are stealing from pensioners and yourselves?

    Come, lewwe hear you on this? Come ON. What about the roads, the prison, the trams. Where are the tenders, where are the reports to track the judicious expenditure?

    You aren’t shame?