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Home Editorial Belize’s television generations

Belize’s television generations

24 TV channels can now be received directly from a satellite 21,000 miles away in space by means of an earth station recently erected at Tropical Park.

The persons responsible for setting up the earth station at a cost of $150,000 (reportedly) are Messrs. Emory King and Nestor Vasquez.

The earth station complex at Tropical Park is also capable of providing cable TV from house to house. “But,” says King, “broadcasting requires a license and we do not have any plans for broadcasting at this time.”

– from page C story entitled, “Belize has TV!”, in AMANDALA no. 594, Friday, January 2, 1981

As we come to the end of 1981, and prepare to enter 1982, television remains the hottest news story in Belize.

It was in AMANDALA’s New Year’s issue introducing 1981 that we covered the Tropical Vision 24 channel, $150,000 earth station story for the first time.

Now the thing about the Tropical Park earth station is that there is some UDP money involved there. Emory King, a PUP loyalist of long standing, has a piece of the action, but so does Net Vasquez, a cornerstone of the United Democratic Party. There was really no way Tropical Vision would get any justice or favors from the government, because Vasquez was a no-no. Once King began screaming, Mr. Price would give him some other lollipop to mollify him, but no television.

The Hoare-Alexander (Coordinated Electronics) proposal seemed like a way to screw Tropical Vision. Remember that this proposal was around Heads of Agreement time, when Mr. Price was beginning to give his loyalists any and every thing they wanted. The granting of a written or unwritten earth station permit from the Premier’s office was the way to reward Mrs. Marie Hoare, a lady who had served Mr. Price faithfully, unquestioningly, and well. It must have seemed to Mr. Price that the transmission of signals to a select wealthy few was one way to fulfill the promise of t.v. in his 1979 manifesto without distracting the attention of the masses from his monopoly radio propaganda.

– FROM THE PUBLISHER, page 2, AMANDALA no. 654, Thursday, December 31, 1981

When live television entered Belize in 1982, the year after Belize achieved political independence, it was supposed to take the form of a controlled experiment, wherein two or three dozen affluent households would purchase equipment which would enable them to receive television signals from a specific satellite company.  The majority shareholders in that company were Arthur and Marie Hoare, and the exclusive rights had been given to that couple as a political favor to Mrs. Marie Hoare, the chairlady of Prime Minister George Price’s Freetown constituency for many years.

Belizeans in Belize City, the nation’s population center, were desperate for television. In the extreme north and extreme south, Belizeans had been viewing television signals from Mexico and Guatemala, respectively, for decades. Many, many Belize City homes owned television sets which they had never been able to use.

How the television genie escaped from the exclusive broadcast bottle owned by the Hoares and licensed by Mr. Price’s People’s United Party (PUP) government is a very, very interesting story which has never been properly told. Yes, enterprising technicians on the ground figured out ways to steal the signals from the Hoare company and sell decoding equipment to individual households outside of the two or three dozen special customers. But, the television genie really escaped because Hon. Louis Sylvestre, the Minister of Communications and Chairman of the PUP, fought Mr. Price for television freedom. From the 1960s, Sylvestre had been 100 percent pro-American in his thinking. As the big boss of the Belize Rural South constituency, which includes San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Sylvestre is the individual most responsible for the hedonistic direction in which Ambergris Caye has gone.

We are looking at the early history of television only to set the stage for what has transpired in the three dozen years since 1982. Cable television has been a devastating and mostly evil influence on two generations of young Belizeans. These two generations will play a role which may be described as decisive, at least critical, in the April 10, 2019 referendum wherein we Belizeans will decide whether we want any and all legal claims which Guatemala has to Belize to be ruled on, finally and bindingly, by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). These two generations do not have the data base on the Guatemalan claim which our Webster Proposals (1968) and Heads of Agreement (1981) generations possessed.

At the same time that television was entering and conquering Belize, the mainstream education system continued to refuse to tell the true story of Belize’s history. For example, the defence of the Settlement of Belize in 1798 was orchestrated from Jamaica, which was the regional center of the slavetrading and slaveholding British Empire. The Settlement of Belize, alone in the British Caribbean, absolutely refused to celebrate Emancipation Day (August 1, 1838). Instead, in 1898 a colonial elite introduced the Centenary celebration of the Battle of St. George’s Caye. When the colonial administration was overthrown on July 22 and 23, 1919, just 21 years after the introduction of Centenary celebrations, that story was obliterated from our history. Basically, the same thing happened with the 1934 rebellion of the working class led by Antonio Soberanis.

A transfer of power over Belize from the British to the Americans began in 1964 when British Honduras became a self-governing colony. Guatemala had been claiming ownership of the Belize territory from the United Kingdom for some decades, after Guatemala declared their 1859 treaty with the British, which demarcated the Belize borders, to be null and void. The United States, which, in pursuance of its Monroe Doctrine of 1823, had pushed the British out of Nicaragua and Honduras through the Clayton–Bulwer (1850) and Dallas–Clarendon (1856) treaties, allowed the British to retain possession of Belize and supported the negotiations between the United Kingdom and Guatemala which led to the signing of the 1859 Treaty.

As Belize considers whether to go to the ICJ, it is vital to understand that in our part of the world — Central America, this ball game is one which is controlled by the mighty United States. The position of the United States, from the Webster Proposals until Belize’s independence in 1981, had consistently been in favor of Belize’s ceding territory to Guatemala in order for the Guatemalans to drop the claim. The Belizean people, thanks to the stubborn patriotism/nationalism of Hon. Philip Goldson, adopted a position of intransigence on the matter of land cession. It is appearing more and more to be the case that the ICJ referendum will represent a test of that aforementioned intransigence. There is a lot of pressure on Belize to go to the ICJ.

The symbolism of Belizeans’ traditional intransigence on the issue of land cession to Guatemala will be lost on our television generations when they vote in the ICJ referendum. For this reason, we would submit, a burden of proof lies on diaspora Belizeans. In the diaspora a consciousness of Mr. Goldson’s steadfastness remains. That is why the diaspora is now making moves to organize and mobilize. Denied the right to vote in the ICJ referendum, as the situation is presently, it may be that the most that diaspora Belizeans can seek to do is influence the television generations for whom Carnival is more important than the Chiquibul.

When Kremandala was given an opportunity to acquire television broadcast capacity in 2003, we did so as a nationalistic move. Our experience with KREM Radio made us well aware that the business aspect of KREM Television would be, at the very least, dicey. We felt, however, that the medium was so powerful, and had been so influential where the mind sets of our younger generations were concerned, that it was vital that we become actors on the television stage. With April 10, 2019 and the ICJ referendum now staring us in our existential face as Belizeans, we are glad that we entered the television arena, as hassling as it has been.

The Kremandala process did not begin as a business proposition. Kremandala began as a cultural movement in 1969. As such, we had no choice but to provide relevant historical and educational information in order to combat the propaganda lies of white supremacy. We have depended mightily on the support of the Belizean people in order to survive. In a sense, in 2018 we are headed back to our movement roots. Belizeans, ya da fu we.

Power to the people.

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