The late Hugh Cholmondeley could be considered the father of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU). He entered the media profession in 1958 at the then British Guiana Broadcasting Service as an announcer. There, he showed great skill in learning all facets of his job including both announcing and operating skills, which classified him as “the first and original DJ” according to his eulogist Nigel Hughes.
From 1966-1968 he served as Director of News and Current Affairs at Radio Demerara and in 1968 he became the first General Manager of the competitor Guyana Broadcasting Service (GBS).
During his time at GBS, he worked diligently to help establish the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) to bring the region closer together through joint and shared programming by radio and television stations. Due in large part to his efforts, the CBU was officially inaugurated in November 1970 in Georgetown, Guyana and he was appointed the first ever director general, a post later renamed Secretary General. The early emphasis was on radio in the Caribbean.
Apart from the numerous training programmes for Caribbean broadcasters, Cholmondeley also led teams to produce two memorable series of programmes: Project One: documentaries on individual CARICOM member countries and Project Two: one-on-one interviews with sitting Heads of Government.
He expanded the remit and output of the CBU from offices at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown Guyana, and doubled this effort with a special CARICOM project to promote a food and nutrition strategy developed by the integration movement to boost regional food production and reduce the regional food import bill.
In 1972 he was appointed Project Manager of UNESCO where he designed and established the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) and the Caribbean Institute of Mass Communications (CARIMAC) at the University of the West Indies (UWI). In 1977 he was transferred to UNESCO Paris as a Programme Specialist where he designed and administered communications and development projects for the establishment and expansion of news agencies in developing countries. In 1979 he became UNESCO’S representative to the Caribbean, and established his office in Jamaica where he functioned until 1985, when he was instrumental in forming the Consortium Graduate School in the Social Sciences in the Caribbean, a multi-university enterprise comprising University of the West Indies, University of Guyana and University of Suriname.
He changed UN hats in 1985 and joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), serving firstly in Jamaica and then in New York, where his accomplishments included assisting in peace making and rehabilitation initiatives in trouble spots – Somalia and Liberia – and he also played a key role in relief efforts in Jamaica when the island was decimated by Hurricane Gilbert. He was also a member of election observer missions in countries including Trinidad and Tobago and even his homeland Guyana.
Hugh Cholmondeley was inducted into the CBU Hall of Fame in 1996.