In Defence of GIS

Caribupdate

Caribupdate Weekly

Service providers of all kinds — in the public and private sectors — could never be immune from scrutiny and criticism, when warranted. The public has a right to holler and to demand better, where they consider service to be below par.

But we all do have a responsibility to defend our fellow citizens, and the workers of the nation, when gratuitous comments are made about them, often based on misconceptions and misunderstanding.

Only recently, Caribupdate Weekly was forced into calling out members of the opposition National Democratic Congress for repeatedly haranguing media workers and lecturing the press on what it ought to be doing and not doing.

The other day we also were left shaking our heads at a scathing broadside that was leveled at the Government Information Service (GIS) on a radio talkshow on Real FM, involving political activist Kennedy Budhlall and broadcaster Andre Donald. Certainly, the two — like any other Grenadian — are entitled to their own opinions; however, not to their own facts. They felt that GIS was not doing a good enough job as a public relations machinery.

In Budhlall’s and Donald’s view, the GIS is not covering enough of the activities of the Keith Mitchell administration, which  will soon enter its fourth year in office since Dr Mitchell’s New National Party swept the polls in general elections in February 2013.

Budhlall and Donald may not be the only two supporters of the NNP who may be making such a claim as another cabinet shake-up looms and a general election is within sight.

Other hardcore supporters of the NNP government are likely to be making similar assertions as the governing party and the main opposition party begin easing into election mode.

Some party supporters are keen to impress by doing or saying what is necessary in order to demonstrate commitment and underscore loyalty.

The GIS TV is not seen as one of the more viewed stations on the island compared to MTV or GBN.

But the station has been providing coverage of a range of government activities and high profile projects in recent years.

Some of the content, including a daily TV newscast and a weekly TV feature programme covering the work of the government, can also be seen consistently on the other stations as well as on social media.

Clearly, every government that has been elected in Grenada essentially considers GIS as the public relations arm of the state; and the role of GIS — essentially to promote the work of the government. But Like anything else, there are some lingering factors affecting GIS’s ability to perform its role to the best of its ability.

Over the years, with successive governments, many of the personnel within GIS are usually hired at the influence of politicians and as such, the best qualified persons are not usually the ones chosen.

This approach tends to go against quality production values, since media houses and media work usually require the recruitment of personnel skilled in the field.

Another factor to consider is that there are those who would want the GIS to operate like a political party PR machinery but this should not happen; GIS, as an institution, is part of the public service. It operates under public service rules, like the rest of the service. Admittedly, there are downsides to this.

For example, public servants have earned a reputation for arriving to work late and leaving early; many have a poor attendance and punctuality compliance record and a general laidback and nonproductive mood abound in the service. Unfortunate — but true!  It should not come as a surprise that much of this lackluster culture in public service conduct is integrated into GIS, as part of a public service institutionalized curse.

The GIS is headed by a director, who reports to the Permanent Secretary who reports to the Prime Minister. He/she, to the best of our knowledge, does not on their own devise policies for the GIS. And where policies are developed and do exist, their effective execution requires cooperation and collaboration with the ministers and ministries of government.

It’s part of a public service design where incompetence and inefficiency can hold sway and two many bosses preside, compared to private sector operations where the structure would be different, lending itself to greater productivity.

In defence of GIS, as a media house operating within an antiquated and regressive model, it has managed to maneuver challenges to throw national focus on some key government policies using various platforms from television to social media.

It has also used the cooperation of other more watched or listened to media houses, and also utilized new media/ social media, as part of its attempt at achieving its mandate.

Taking all factors into consideration, we consider the attack on GIS from Budhlall and Donald as unfair and only designed to play to the political base.

True, there is room for improvement at GIS — as there is with every media outfit throughout Grenada. But insiders, and objective observers, know that the shortcoming of local media, including GIS, has less to do with want of effort.

The problem begins with who is recruited and how they are recruited to the profession. And it continues, and often the problem is exacerbated, by low or no training for staff; relatively low wages; inadequate infrastructure and facilities; and insufficient financial resources at the various media houses.

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