Government Suspends Normal Relations with Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions

-Press Release - Government of Belize - Belmopan, 7th December, 2010. The Belizean public is hereby informed that, effective immediately, the Government of Belize is suspending normal relations with Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions.

The reasons for this are as follows:

1. Channel 5, the Ashcroft/Opposition Television Station, under its current owners and management, has wilfully and systematically violated the terms and conditions of its license under the Belize Broadcasting and Television Act which require that a station’s “news programs shall be broadcast in a professional, objective and impartial manner with a clear distinction between news reports on one hand and editorializing and commentaries on the other” (Clause 14), and that, “if in the process of editorializing of programs or otherwise the Licensee expresses any views or comments which may be considered uncomplimentary, detrimental or injurious to the character or interest of any person or body, he or she shall promptly provide such person or body on request a right of reply free of cost.”(Clause 15)

2. Channel 5 is the only local television station that has refused to air the government-produced video program, Belmopan Weekly. This is in clear violation of Clause 19 of the Belize Broadcasting & Television Act, Revised Edition 2000, Amended 2002, Revised Schedule of Terms and Conditions for On Air Television License, which unequivocally states, “The licensee shall provide to the government one hour per week broadcasting time, free of cost, for broadcasting public service messages and programs produced by or channelled through the Ministry of Information. The allocation of such time shall be determined by the Ministry of Information.”

3. The station has over the past two and a half years proceeded down a deliberate path to systematically undermine, not just the government, but the interest of the entire nation and its people. In the process, Channel 5 has wilfully sacrificed the established principles of objectivity, fair-play and balance in its news and other current affair programs.

4. Given the direction the station has taken in its news reporting and other programming, this government sees no value, purpose or justification in attempting to maintain with Channel 5 the kind of relationship it has sought to cultivate and nurture with all local media for the overall benefit and wellbeing of our nation and people.

The government’s suspension of normal relations with Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions means that, effective immediately, no government representative of any ministry or department will give any official individual interview or make any individual appearance on Channel 5.

The government re-iterates its continued policy of seeking an open and respectful relationship with all our local media, and stands ready to resume normal relations with Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions as soon as the station demonstrates a willingness to comply with the law and conform to the established standards and principles of fair and objective journalism and programming, as stipulated in the terms and conditions of its license under the Belize Broadcasting and Television Act.