ACCESS TO THE STATE MEDIA IS NO EXCUSE
APNU is ensuring that there is room for excuses so that if or when it loses the general elections, it can deflect criticism from the way it has run its campaign. In so doing, it will cushion any fallout from the loss of the elections.
The PNCR, the main partner in APNU, is well aware of fallout from elections, and therefore knows the problems that can arise for their party and its partners should their supporters attempt, after the elections, to vent their frustrations on the partnership.
The PNC lost the 1992 elections to Cheddi Jagan. At the end of those elections, one of the PNC’s candidates in those elections, Winston Murray, when asked about the PNC loss after twenty eight years in power, said those elections were Cheddi Jagan’s elections. What he meant was that the people had decided that it was time for a change and they chose Jagan. It was, from the interpretation of his words, an election that the PNC could not have won.
In 1997 and 2001, Desmond Hoyte again lost elections to the PPP and in 2006 it was Robert Corbin who led the PNCR to defeat at the polls.
All the issues- crime, corruption, and poverty- that APNU is basing its campaign on for this year, are the same issues that the PNCR campaigned on during the 2006 elections when it lost by a landslide.
Mr. Corbin has decided not to stand for election this year. The economy has grown over the past six years and Guyana is one of the few countries in the Caribbean that is likely to enjoy economic growth this year. The economy is at its best ever. And given these things, it is hard for any party to rebound in six years from the margin of defeat the PNCR suffered in 2006. So why given all this and more, does APNU believe that it is going to have a chance in this year’s elections? Why does APNU also believe that it can win given that since 2006 it has not been an effective opposition party both inside and outside of parliament? APNU therefore has to find an excuse or excuses for its loss in this year’s elections.
The issue of access to the state-owned media can no longer be used as an excuse. APNU and the other opposition parties had complained about lack of access.
The state-owned NCN offered five minutes a week. This was an offer and not an unreasonable one. APNU could have countered with a request for six minutes per week with repeats. This would have provided twelve minutes per week which is more than adequate.
It takes money to run a radio and television station. As such, the electronic media do not have unlimited time to offer all the political parties. If it does this it will lose considerable money and in the case of the state-owned media it is already dependent on the government for subsidizing the cost of the relay of broadcasts of international and regional sporting events, the rights of which are very costly.
The main beneficiaries of election campaign funding are the media houses. This is their season advertising agencies and the media houses in which they advertise make the most money.
It is therefore unreasonable for opposition parties to expect that they would have as much access as they please. The media houses cannot afford this. If the opposition parties each want five hours per week, they have it, but they should settle for between midnight and 6 o clock in the morning. The state-owned media could provide all the time they need within this period.
But you cannot ask the state-owned media to provide more than ten minutes per week during the period when viewing is at its peak. This is unreasonable.
There are many parties desirous of having time and limited prime time spots. Ten minutes per week, which the media is reporting is the revised offer by NCN and it is good.
The Guyanese public does not want long sermons to listen on the air. They want a concise three minute viewpoint from the parties. And if the message is good enough, and said well enough, then with a repeat, the opposition parties can gain traction with their ten minutes per week. They also have the option of paying for any other time they want on the state media at fair rates.
The opposition parties have however boxed themselves into a corner. They themselves do not seem to know what is a reasonable amount of time that should be provided free of cost.
If they feel that the state media is being unreasonable, then they should report just how much free time they are obtaining from the private media. And there are many private media houses in Guyana.
Even if NCN increases the ten minutes to fifteen, APNU cannot accept because it has boxed itself into a corner. Apart from this, APNU can use this issue as an excuse to mitigate the fallout from the elections if and when it loses. And from the way it is campaigning, it looks more like when it loses rather than if it loses.