Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday he intends to make a complaint to the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) over alleged “political interference” at ZNS news.
Davis said he was interviewed by ZNS reporter Vaughn Albury shortly before Christmas and later learned, to his surprise, that “the news department had been instructed not to air the interview”.
“Members of the opposition have as much right to access this national communication network as the governing party,” said Davis during his monthly press conference at PLP headquarters.
“The professionals at ZNS should determine what constitutes news. The instructions handed down to the news department smacks of petty political interference and victimization and would surely undermine the credibility of ZNS.”
But West End and Bimini MP Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe, parliamentary secretary for information and communication in the Office of the Prime Minister, said she was unaware of Davis’ claim. Parker-Edgecombe has responsibility for the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (BCB).
“I personally do not have any information with regard to the interview, which the leader of the opposition is speaking [of],” she said when called for comment.
“Whether or not it was shelved would have to be investigated. I can guarantee, however, that if the interview did take place, we are in the business of being professionals, and as journalists we want to ensure that we are unbiased.
“I will be looking into the matter, and as soon as I am aware of exactly what his concerns are, we will address [them] effectively.”
Davis claimed that PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell was informed by ZNS reporters that “nothing from the opposition was to be played on ZNS news unless the government first had the opportunity to respond, and if the government did not respond, then they were not to be played”.
Regarding his complaint to URCA, Davis said, “I would be making a formal complaint to URCA on this issue, which has responsibility to ensure fairness and balance in the media.
“In fact, I am advised that URCA has already issued instructions with respect to this matter, but I will ask them to look into this with a view of determining what should be done as a result of their failure, ZNS’ failure, to comply with URCA’s instructions.”
Parker-Edgecombe said Davis is well within his rights to seek redress from URCA.
“I am sure that if indeed there is something that is found to be wrong or even right, we will all know, and that information will be readily available to the public,” she said.
“I can guarantee that the BCB is not in the business of being biased.
“It is something that we are going to be addressing over the month and years because, as you would know, the prime minister, upon coming into this administration, advised that we do not wish to utilize the BCB as a propaganda machine of any sort.”
While in opposition, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis and the FNM made similar allegations regarding ZNS and the then PLP government.
Asked about this, Davis, who served in the Christie administration at the time, said, “First of all, insofar as my complaint is concerned, I point specifically to things.
“I don’t speak generally or with a wide brush. Any complaint that they (the FNM) made, I think was responded to. In this instance, I’m speaking to specific events.”
He added, “Now, this is a new day. That’s why we are here and they are there.”