An olive branch Mr Prime Minister?

An olive branch Mr Prime Minister?

Communication | Judette Coward-Puglisi

November 12, 2008

How a communicator would advise Mr. Manning

I am being presumptuous, I know. But if I was to advise the Prime Minister on the brewing controversy, I would certainly tell him this …

“Honourable Sir,
As a professional communicator I couldn’t help but cringe over the way you handled the  inappropriate comments made by the two radio announcers recently.
But what was done, is done and now you must seek a way to move forward.

You did wrong Sir.  It is best to face it. Given your stature of your office and personality, an apology may be out of character and appear to be inauthentic. May I advise Sir that you extend the olive branch in other ways.  I would humbly suggest a direct, face-to-face  meeting with the executive of MATT;  a reassurance that your government understands the role of a free and unencumbered media in a democracy.”


43 thoughts on “An olive branch Mr Prime Minister?

  1. They would call that a democracy. I still believe that we live in one though Attala, we just have to guard it zealously.

  2. I agree with you 100% – its just that these "back door" tactics scare me….many will be willing to brush it under the carpet not recognising what it represents. You are right…we have to be guards to protect what we cherish most …lets hope for the best.

  3. You meant respect CANNOT be legislated right?

    And I think the Prime Minister went to that station on purpose to create this brouhaha…the PM often does not do things without carefully planning out the effect he wants…

    I think he maybe a bit more Shrewd than we give him credit for

    But this is some sound advice

  4. Yes I did mean cannot, and I think you are absolutely right Nigel. I don’t think Mr Manning is irrational, in fact, the opposite, I find that he is quite calculating.
    Which raises this issue, why in the world did he do it knowing the brouhaha it would have caused?

  5. Maybe he wanted some avenue to control the media without him being the direct instigator

    i think it’s a red herring in some way

    a diversion to something else. I do not believe for a second he went down there all huffing and puffing…

  6. Judette, nice one….knowing the personality of the man, an apology is surely not on his "A" list. I agree the 2 radio presenters were wrong, but the heavy handed scare tactic was the wrong approach, one may argur that the station is not considered a ‘hard news’ station but nevertheless they do deliver a newscast and ought to know the soap box messages can be done outside of a newscast. The media has a responsibilty to society and their is a forum for which opinions can be delivered, however, one ought to respect the sancity of its newscast.
    The PM should have handled the situation differently, everyone agrees with that. I think the media has not taken enough of an issue or a stance in stating their position, this is frightening, especially when one considers the beast that the media is. The media is the most powerful tool in communcations, and need to stand up for what is right, if not only for what they believe in.
    An olive branch is so easy to do, yet can speak more than a thousand words, but inevitably would suggest an apology which we know ain’t forthcoming. In the meantime we sit by an allow the man WE appointed as boss to run a democratic press. Governmentatily at best.

  7. Rosh, maybe you didn’t see the excellent release MATT did? I also think that it is a much more stronger, collective media voice being heard now than with the broadcast code. Barring Louis Lee Singh of course.

  8. Something more that a statement from MATT indicating their position. Why haven’t the executive of MATT appeared at all media houses expressing their concerns? Use the forum to your advantage. Can you imagine if an attack like such had been done against the PSA or CWU what the reactions would have been? Or if the PM had done anything let say against a Dale and Tony what the reactions would have been, monkey really know which tree to climb. This should be headline news every single day until the media and by extension the public is assured that their fundamental right has been restored.

  9. Hmmmm. I am hoping Judy weighs in on this, why is this issue not front page news today? Has it lost its steam?

  10. With this incident 94.1 more than likely has doubled their listenership and isn’t there a media survey going on, better yet for them.

    Media deregulation is part of the problem, too much competition can lead to decreased standards especially with the amount of radio stations and in an attempt to maintain market share ‘mauvais lang’ seems to take precedent with some stations over professional journalism (note I said some).

    I agree the PM should have followed a process (MATT, TTPBA, TATT) if felt that he was wronged by the radio station, that’s what democracy is all about – the same way we as citizens have to follow a process if let’s say become victims of crime, We can’t (unfortunately) take the law in our own hands. Would like to see something positive come out of this rather than more conflict.

  11. Indeed Maria. So well put, and that’s why I am so interested in a way forward. The issue should not be allowed to wither away without some form of resolution, there is a clear role for good communications in all of this.

  12. Speaking as MATT VP: Roshan, the members of the executive have said yes to every invitation we’ve received to appear on radio & TV. We’re contacting editors at the others to offer to give interviews if they’re interested. But MATT doesn’t run the media!
    We’re also planning a general meeting of the membership to discuss other possible steps we could or should take. NB: MATT is not a trade union but a professional association.
    Judette: the MATT executive would certainly be willing to meet the PM. It would be great to have the opportunity to sugest that if he’s troubled by what he considers low standards in the media, perhaps the government could offer scholarships to journalists (once there were no strings attached) or give incentives to media houses that invest in training for their staff (which they have always shied away from and regarded simply as a cost).

  13. Speaking for myself, I must disagree with the idea of "the sanctity of the newscast." In larger, more liberal societies such as the UK and US, media houses have known political allegiances that, naturally, colour their reporting as well as their commentary. That doesn’t happen here because the market is so small & you’d halve it if you declared a political leaning.
    But even here the rules that govern what may or may not be said during a newscast are up to the individual media house (within the confines of law, good taste, etc). I don’t know what guidelines 94.1 sets for itself or how seriously the station or anyone else takes its news.
    But that’s a matter for the station & doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with its standards. And a lapse on the part of one media house certainly doesn’t lead to the logical conclusion that standards are unacceptably low in every branch of the media in the country.
    And even if 94.1 had been completely out of place, that doesn’t mean it was acceptable for the PM to take the unheard-of step of going to the station to complain.
    Re the Mirror, that the PM disagreed with its interpretation of events doesn’t ipso facto mean it was illegal or that he has the slightest grounds for legal action. It will be interesting to see what his lawyers have to say.

  14. What was interesting was I wasn’t here for the "event", but when I met with my dad on November 3rd on14th Street (New York City) after our hug and kiss it was not the pending election that was at the forefront of his mind but this whole issue. He went into great length (off course i was on my Obama high) to outline the reports he had heard and how he felt that the Honorable Prime Minister (note I fully respect his Office) was inappropriate in his reaction, he outlined what steps should have been taken in the following of protocol etc. But it is interesting to note that what happens in Trinidad does not stay in Trinidad and we all have to aware that what we say and what we do transends our shores and will off course be noted and interpreted by others. And may reflect on what type of " leader/ruler" we are.

  15. Judette, nice letter, you should send it to him. I am hoping that the media use this as a lesson to improve the way it functions, raise the bar on the calibre of people they recruit and see the need for training or work more closely with institutions offering training to raise their standards. It’s too much of a free for all esp on the radio stations.

  16. Judy this is a valid, valid solution.

    Training and scholarships are tangible things and can be easily invested in by the Government, after all an educated citizenry is one of the tenents of Vision 2020. Plus training programmes will have real benefit to one of the Government’s principle stakeholders, the media. In the world of communications this would be an excellent case of corporate partnering and social responsibility.

    Might I include your suggestion in a letter I wish to write to the editor, attributing it to you?

  17. Sharon, I call it the contagion effect of the global village in which we live.

    Laura, I am thinking of a letter to the editor? Maybe via the Express given their front page editorial..what do you think?

  18. I have a question was it a New report that was being read or a Discussion Session with Opinions being voiced? Because while I tend to believe that there is a degree of objectivity in the reporting of news (since this is scripted -right?) that in discussion pieces, opinions and subjectivity would necessarily seep through. We all know that in the real world of human kind pure objectivity is a myth even if we are good at faking it.

  19. I agree with Laura. While it was not appropriate and very un-charateristic for a PM to do what Mr. Manning did, i do believe that there is a need for MATT to insist that announcers (as indeed there are many new and young ones on all the radio stations now) be properly trained in getting the word out yes, but with more professionalism, and more elements of protocol.

    They must remember that they influence the minds of many people more so on the radio than from any other medium. So what they say must be carefully thought out and phrased etc. The chat shows seem to be getting out of hand with sometimes many inappropriate comments.

    There must also be great respect for our leaders even if they are being criticized. More attention must be paid on what is being communicated on our airwaves,while still maintaining "Freedom of the press." It is not so much what you say but how you say it as my mother used to tell me.

  20. Judy, excellent suggestion of training – but we all know how even the media houses feel about that – a cost they never ever budget for, perhaps some fundraising ventures by MATT will allow for such.. again i ask MATT to open up it’s membership to all media workers not just journalists, and if it has, i need a form.

    Judette, may i suggest you send it to all press, let it be at the front burner.

  21. Sure, once you attribute it to me personally. Organising &/or providing training is at the head of MATT’s list of priorities but–partly because as you know we’ve been distracted by an unexpected turn of events–we haven’t yet ironed out all the details of how we’re going to make that happen. I should add that I think if the government were to offer scholarships they should be disbursed & administered by some independent body, media houses or MATT: it wouldn’t look too good for the recipients to be labelled ever afterwards as "government journalists."
    Also, please note that I don’t necessarily agree with the view that the announcers’ comments were inappropriate. As I said, I think that’s up to the media house concerned.
    And I’m not sure why you’d want to tell the PM to challenge MATT to be more vigilant. It’s not MATT’s job to police the media; that’s what TATT & the Media Complaints Council are for. If MATT is to be vigilant about anything, it’s to ensure that the freedom of the press is not threatened or further constrained.
    Also, Neil Parsanlal is Min of Info, not communications.

  22. Judy, thanks for the edits. To Rosh’s point about opening MATT to all media workers. What levels of membership does MATT currently offer?

  23. MATT is already open to all media workers, but we realise that that needs to be made better known. Also at present people with less than three years’ experience can’t be full members; we plan to change that. People in associated fields such as PR, advertising & communications can be associate members.

  24. quick question to all:
    if we forget (if only for an instant, since longer could be fatal) the lessons history has taught us all re fourth estate censureship, how is P’s outburst (calculated or not) any different to the rest of shock jock talk radio we all tune into and "love"? Another 9-day wonder full of thrills, spills and chills?

    even if P’s action was a mere uninspired political ruse, designed to stir up aggressions and shunt attention from the ongoing social and upcoming economic stultification, in a time where the media represents the one agent that can galvanise any effort of social change, one still has to admire the sheer balls on the man….to take ’em on…

    Quite simply, remember the man’s mantra "if u can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with ur bullshit….

    so the only question that lurks is…is there anyone out there in Patrickdad and Hazelago, who, after 15 or so years, is either dazzled or baffled by anything our Crime Minister does?

    i’m too apathetic to notice, too lethargic to act and too stupid to vote….

  25. excellent letter judette.
    i was glad to see that training came to the surface in the discussion, because to me, besides the honorable prime minister’s dishonorable tactics, that is a big problem.

    people forget the kind of power they hold when they are in control of a portion of mainstream media. right now, people are saying whatever comes to their minds. it’s not that expressions and opinions must be muzzled (i am the last person to endorse that!) but there is a way to do it. there is evidence to support, there are disclaimers to be put forward, there are various forums where different things would become appropriate… standards must be maintained. if they were, all of this would not have happened.

    but the PM didn’t have to go there doh.

  26. Clever Kyle. You’re certainly not too listless to write, in that way at least, you have noticed, acted and voted.

  27. JR
    For at least a decade, PR and related people were entitled to Matt associate membership. At one point that "arm" of Matt was the most vibrant, organising regular breakfast events.
    Maybe the Matt constitution is now unwritten, but I and others are ready to deliver "case-law" testimony of what happened.
    The present monkey pants we’re in: a substantial element of the Matt executive are now beholden to a rampant Louis Lee Sing.
    We shall see.

  28. It is interesting the viewpoint of Mr. Lee Singh and the fact that the MATT President works for him…hmmmmm

  29. Olive Branch? yuh start bad one time dey..The amazing Patman ..defender of institutions..faster than a speeding haircut…all powerful save for his one weakness..he does not understaand what a figure of speech is…!!! a visionary without imagination is jus a seerman

  30. Sooooo….in summary; whither goes thou? The media is the strongest influence on public opinion in Western civilizations. Is this really going to just peter out into nothingness? Most likely, I would argue! Such a pity, because the very interesting discussion that prevailed here, combined with shrewd wit quite clearly surpasses some of the "debate" I’ve witnessed leading up to the US elections. Can’t our communications sector truly show its colours????? Please someone????

  31. I read most of the comments above and I tend to agree with Laura. Am not a media person but rather a teacher and am often upset with the rubbish that makes its way on the air waves. I think it has become a free for all and gone are days of excellence in journalism. I sometimes wonder if no one is going to insist on quality and professionalism. The PM may have made the wrong move by doing what he did but his action has certainly brought to the fore a situation that has been allowed to fester for far too long. Indeed, he got a response from MATT, tongues went a wagging left, right and centre. As a society we must all insist on quality and decorum from the PM as well as our media houses.

  32. "Is this really going to just peter out into nothingness? Most likely, I would argue!"

    i wager the same.
    i would be surprised if by next week, this issue exists outside the lines of a calypso being written for the party bashing season, or a random rapso track or two.

  33. Speaking about case law and case studies, Lenny, this is a classic case of ‘how not to do it’ for a crisis communications class. The upside is that it’s offering us an opportunity to move a step forward and, assuming that we’re willing to, learn from the experience – continuous training is a must in any service industry and, yes, it is a personal responsibility to be the best you can be but the employer also has that responsibility. I know that when I hear the poor English and the inane backchat on air, I tune out – literally.

  34. Instructive to assess the English (including pronunciations) of owner L.L. Sing, born-again champion of "professionalism".
    Till now, pervasive absence of training has been the so-called elephant in the room, that nobody talked about (except maybe would-trainers like me).
    It’s not just the cost of training: my experience has been of a scramble to fill spaces in FREE training courses!
    L.L. Sing’s Citadel declined invitation to nominate a single staffer for the last such freeness run by the Commonwealth Press Union in PoS in January.

  35. Aye, there’s the rub!

    But I am concerned that L.L. Sing (as Mr G calls him) has taken this matter to a personal level. What right does he have to give an ultimatum to the MATT president? (see page 4, Trinidad Express). Isn’t that censorship? Or he getting pressure from PNM muscle?

    This matter has gone beyond a wake up call for media houses to get their act together. This has become downright nasty.

  36. L.L. Singh’s comments were laughable to me since his stations are good examples of the paucity of quality radio and the sheer ignorance that passes for radio these days. And he’s a PNM hack so he clearly was pandering to his PM.

  37. Laughable, yes.
    But no "h" on this Sing.
    I’ve written a column on this.
    For $3 you can save my deathless SG prose for the expanding ranks of your posterity.

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