Govt programmes sneaked onto Guyana Learning Channel
– Coordinator deflects questions, maintains no change in policy– OPM defends moveThe Guyana Learning Channel (TGLC) is now broadcasting a number of Government Information AgencyCoordinator of the TGLC, Dr Seeta Roath(GINA) programmes, including activities of Cabinet Ministers, the President’s Diary, The President’s weekly telecast, “The Public Interest” among others, despite no public disclosure of this move to place such programmes on a television station established exclusively to broadcast educational materials, without having any political influence.After Guyana Times learnt of the programmes being broadcasted, Coordinator of the TGLC, Dr Seeta Roath was contacted, but she dodged the question on whether or not the Channel is now airing such programmes, but confirmed that there was no change in the Channel’s mandate.“The Guyana Learning Channel Trust has not changed its mandate. All broadcasts are supposed to be educational – apolitical and non-commercial. Public education is still education. No politics should be shown and definitely no commercials should be included. Public Service Announcements take the place of commercials,” she told this publication in an email exchange, adding that “programmes from GINA, shown on the Guyana Learning Channel Trust, should reflect this mandate.”When ask specifically if developmental programmes and activities of government ministers were being aired by the TGLC, DrRoath again skirted over the issue and said she was on vacation, but trusted the judgment of her staff.“As long as developmental programmes are educational and are free of advertisements, then there is no problem in broadcasting them. I am on leave at the moment. I trust my officers’ judgment during the review process,” she stated.Meanwhile, later on Wednesday, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) sought to defend the decision to broadcast the programmes on TGLC, whose mandate is the proliferation of educational content exclusively.In a statement, the OPM said the decision to use the Learning Channel in this regard was as a result of constant complaints from residents of several hinterland villages about not being able to access public information and reports on the work of the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive. The statement added that Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo met with Education Minister, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and Dr Roath and negotiated for broadcast time on the educational channel, which led to an agreement for the programmes to be aired “during non-primetime, late night hours during weekdays and on midday and afternoon hours at weekends.”It said that the time slots being used are 22:30h to midnight on weekdays and 12:00h to 13:00h and 18:30h to 19:30h on weekends.“These timeslots, in no way disrupt TLC’s core educational programming designed for schoolchildren. During weekdays, the late night time slot is after traditional bedtime hours for children. At the weekends, many children are engaged in sports and recreational activities during the day and early evening. These time slots represent a small fraction of the full programme time and amount to less than seven per cent of the total weekly programme time of 168 hours,” the OPM statement said.It said that some of the video content which was being aired on the channel was “mistakenly branded” but, have since been recalled and promised that the video content provided will be of “a national nature and properly and appropriately titled.”According to the OPM, the Community Radio Project which has already been rolled out in Lethem, Region Nine (Upper Takatu-Upper Essequibo) and Mabaruma, Region One (Barima-Waini) as well as a community television station’s programme will eventually air this content.“In the interim, however, programmes of national interest such as His Excellency President David Granger’s weekly ‘Public Interest’ television programme and Government Information Agency’s magazine news briefs, along with other national programming, will be broadcast via TLC, to the 16 locations to which it broadcasts via satellite as facilitated by the National Communications Network (NCN),” the statement explained.According to the OPM, it treats the constitutional right of access to information for all citizens most seriously and will continue to pursue arrangements and endeavours which will ensure that all citizens have improved access to information and are not left isolated and uninformed on national issues.The Guyana Learning Channel was launched on April 1, 2011 by the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government with the sole mandate of broadcasting educational content. In fact, the PPP had said that the channel would not be used for politicking, when those concerns were raised at its inception.The Learning Channel was modelled after similar public broadcasting services in India, Mexico, the UK and US.It targets preschoolers, kindergarteners, primary, secondary, university and technical and vocational education students.The Guyana Learning Channel also caters for teachers, early school leavers, lifelong learners, parents, educators, farmers, and others interested in instructional/info-educational programmes in different areas of interest.