Government is establishing a television channel, Premier McKeeva Bush announced in North Side on Monday night.
“Government will have its own channel where we can educate the people of this country properly. They have a right to know more than they are getting from the mass media,” he said.
The channel is not a Government Information Services undertaking. “It will be run by Government per se,” he emphasised. Mr. Bush said broadcasting could begin in the middle of this year.
Legislative Assembly proceedings will be televised, which he said should lead to people’s greater understanding of what takes place. He expressed a belief that this will prevent some people in the media publishing selected excerpts “which may or may not reflect what is actually happening.” He said the Caymanian Compass does “a fair job”.
Mr. Bush said communication is important in good governance. Some people read reports of proceedings, some read the hansards and some listen to the radio, but “we all know TV is viewed by a higher percentage of the population.”
Broadcasts will include news shows and programmes explaining policy. The channel would also be used to communicate storm bulletins and timely information such as school announcements, he said.
Government has talked to WestStar TV Limited, which provides local television services, Mr. Bush revealed. He said WestStar would provide the channel free and include it in all packages at no cost.
The premier spoke for about one hour and 27 minutes before taking questions from the audience of over 100 in the district’s Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre. Not everyone attending was from North Side.
His topics included the economy, crime and the coming budget year. He said he has asked for changes in the government accounting system because it is too complicated and too burdensome on civil servants. He wants a system that will be more sensible, practical and provide an instrument that will be better understood.
He said critics are shouting down his ideas to stimulate the economy but are not coming up with any viable ideas. Some 400 young people will be coming out of the high schools this year, he said; where are the jobs for them, or the money for scholarships, he asked.
He reiterated his position on any development of the North Sound. “I will not support anything that scientific evidence says will damage the Sound,” he declared. No work will begin until a comprehensive environmental impact study by world-class engineers and scientists has been completed and then approved by a special committee, including members of the Department of the Environment, he said. “Let’s get scientific facts — then we will have something to debate,” he urged.
Responding to questions about a proposed port facility in East End, he said as of that day there was no formal application before Government. He understood the proposal awaited an environmental impact study, which suited Government. He said if the proposal turned ut to be what critics said, Government would not support it.
Asked about district advisory councils, with members being elected or appointed, he noted that the opposition party was in the majority at the time the new Constitution was being drafted. He said all legislators agreed at the time that district elections for councils would be costly and would be a form of local government. The councils are meant to advise the district MLAs on district matters, he reminded his audience; they are not there to advise Government.
He commended North Siders who had come forward to serve on their district council after being chosen by ballot or acclamation at a public meeting last month.
He said it is in the best interests of North Side to recognise them as “nominations from the public”. He was therefore asking Government to accept these members and then appoint someone to the council, as set out in the new law. In the future, North Side will have to comply with the law, he added.
Mr. Bush was accompanied by elected members of the United Democratic party, along with senior civil servants who, he explained, were there to assist in answering questions. He turned several questions over to Education Minister Rolston Anglin and Community Affairs Minister Mike Adam.
In response to one young man who asked for trade and vocational schools, Mr. Anglin detailed programmes in place and others about to start. Mr. Adam referred to the facility being built for young offenders and the educational component that will be included. He agreed he had been present at a discussion of a programme by which the Contractors Association would teach construction skills to unemployed young men. However, he said, no written proposal for that programme had ever reached him.
Asked about staffing matters at the district primary school, Mr. Anglin said he referred such questions to his human resources department: “I stay clear of that aspect.”
One young woman asked when North Side would get homes built under the affordable housing plan. There was some disagreement between Mr. Adam and district MLA Ezzard Miller as to whether Mr. Miller had said a day care facility for the elderly was the priority, or a priority. Mr. Adam did not disagree when Mr. Miller told him, “You said you didn’t have the money to buy the land anyway.”
George Town MLA Ellio Solomon, who serves on the housing council, said it is government’s policy to do affordable homes in all districts. Once a project is completed in the Windsor Park area of George Town, the programme will move to Bodden Town and then North Side, he said.
Mr. Bush indicated that the next meeting of this kind will be held in East End, but he did not say when.