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CBU Holds 51st Annual General Assembly Virtually – Calls For Broadcast License Fee Suspension

Bridgetown, Barbados. August 20, 2020. Broadcasters and other media practitioners from across the Caribbean this week reported significant challenges to their continued viable operations, brought on by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) which has been impacting them negatively for almost six months. 

The media organisations that are members of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, (CBU) told the 51st Annual General Assembly (AGA) of the Union that most of them have seen their revenues depressed as advertising slumped, even as their expenses increased, as they provided more welfare support for their workers and introduced basic health screening and sanitisation measures to combat spread of the virus. 

One regulator who is an associate member of the Union reported that a sign of the times was that broadcasters have not been able to pay their spectrum and licence fees so far this year. This led the meeting in a resolution to urge regulators and policymakers to waive their charges especially in the pandemic period. 

The media practitioners called for their important work being done to inform and educate the public about the effects of the virus, to be recognized and relieved by waiving license and regulatory fees for the period of the pandemic. (See attached Resolution) 

The CBU members at the meeting represented Anguilla, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, San Andres – Colombia, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands. 

They noted that their member from the Bahamas was unable to attend as it became the first broadcaster in the region to be shuttered for sanitisation after a staff member tested positive a week ago. 

The members also discussed the need for additional media training opportunities using technology options which precluded travelling at this time of a pandemic. 

The General Assembly noted the developments globally where some countries are now moving to secure equitable compensation from large global technology giants (like Google) that use news and information from broadcasters and publishers to generate super-profits. The AGA noted that the companies, also called hyperscalers, operate in the region, utilizing the content of broadcasters and newspapers, pay little or nothing for its usage of the content and attract billions in advertising, even as they avoid paying royalties, rights fees or local taxes in the region. The General Assembly passed a resolution calling on regional governments and policymakers to take legislative action to change this situation and support local media. 

The meeting also approved Trinidad and Tobago as the venue for their 2021 General Assembly. 

In elections at the meeting David Ellis of Starcom Network in Barbados, Emiliana Bernard-Stephenson from Teleislas in San Andres, Colombia, Richard Purcell of One Caribbean Media in Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Campbell from The Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica and Chris Jarrett from Radio Turks and Caicos in the Turks and Caicos Islands were elected to the Board of Directors. They joined Gary Allen (President) of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group in Jamaica, Amalia Mai (Vice President) of Great Belize Productions, Channel 5 in Belize, Kayleaser Deveaux-Isaacs of the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas in Bahamas and Sushilla Jadoonanan of DirecTV in Trinidad and Tobago. 

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