“Son,” the old guys says, “you are now going out into the wide, wide world to make your own way, and it is a very good thing to do, as there are no more opportunities for you in this burg. I am only sorry,” he says, “that I am not able to bankroll you to a very large start, but,” he says, “not having any potatoes to give you, I am now going to stake you to some very valuable advice, which I personally collect in my years of experience around and about, and I hope and trust you will always bear this advice in mind.
“Son,” the old guy says, “no matter how far you travel, or how smart you get, always remember this: Some day, somewhere,” he says, “a guy is going to come to you and show you a nice brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is never broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that the jack of spades will jump out of this deck and squirt cider in your ear. But, son,” the old guy says, “do not bet him, for as sure as you do you are going to get an ear full of cider.”
– from THE IDYLL OF MISS SARAH BROWN, by Damon Runyon
The PUDP politicians in this country of ours used to have the electronic media absolutely choked by the neck. The PUP were following in the footsteps of the British, and the UDP, when they finally came to power, did nothing more than follow in the footsteps of the PUP. Radio Belize remained a government monopoly after Dr. Manuel Esquivel’s UDP took over in December of 1984.
The contradiction in this situation after political independence, where the Belizean private sector was not allowed to participate in radio, was that the British military forces at Ladyville had their own radio station blasting, a station which could be clearly heard in Belize City, the independent nation’s population, financial, and historical capital. Under the circumstances, the British Forces radio station amounted to an insult to native Belizeans.
In their determined bid to return to power, PUP leadership in early/mid 1989 decided to endorse and support the demand of this newspaper for a private radio license. Most observers believe this was a decision by the PUP which was rewarded in the September 1989 general elections, which the PUP won narrowly, 15-13. The significance of the PUP’s decision to announce its support for “Radio Amandala,” lay in the fact that in those 1989 general elections they gained control of the two key Southside constituencies – Collet and Lake Independence, the only seats they won on Belize City’s Southside.
The early months and years of what became KREM Radio are a study in political intrigue and treachery which requires a chapter unto itself. It is completely clear, 23 years afterwards, that the PUP had no intention for KREM to survive. When KREM did survive, because of overwhelming support from a public starved for free, creative radio, the PUP decided to give another license for private radio, which was how LOVE FM came on the air in early 1993. Essentially, KREM Radio had defeated the privatized Broadcasting Corporation of Belize (BCB) in head-to-head competition. But, that’s another story still.
What I want to talk about is how the PUDP politicians soon began giving out radio licenses left, right, and center, including to themselves, and how the radio waves got out of control, so to speak. The first somewhat cynical radio license was given to FM 2000 in 1994. This became the present PUP radio station – Positive Vibes. But, it was given by the UDP, who had won the 1993 general elections, to a PUP crony in order for him to weaken KREM’s Belize City dominance.
Five years later, the PUP returned the favor by giving a radio license to the present UDP Leader. In the five years between the PUP station in 1994 and the UDP station in 1989, individual politicians and foreign religions began to open radio stations all over Belize.
I can’t talk much about the quality of those radio stations which are confined to the Districts, but I can say categorically that there are people who are on the PUDP stations in Belize City who have no respect for their mouths, which is how the old people used to describe it when people rattled off in an inane or vulgar fashion.
You know, if you listen to interviews with professional athletes, they will often refer to “respect for the game.” This is a concept that is important for professional athletes, because “the game,” whichever one it is, is how they make their daily bread. The carpenter has respect for his hammer and his saw. His tools are how he feeds his children. The professional athlete respects the game. In Belize, however, some people who are in the hire of the two major political parties, disrespect the medium and they disrespect the word.
I am a professional writer by primary profession. I respect words, and I handle them carefully, because words are how I make my living. There are people who routinely disrespect words on the political radio stations. Yes, of course, they are entitled to make a living, and, yes, they are in the direct employ of our most powerful PUDP politicians. It is likely that some of those guilty of disrespect for words, don’t know any better. Ultimately, those who are to blame are the aforementioned PUDP politicians behind the scenes, who appear to enjoy the vulgar and the scurvy use of words. These are the same politicians who go to church, dress very nicely, and voice all those pious platitudes on radio and television. It is these same politicians who pay for the vulgar and the scurvy to be broadcast on weekday mornings. The politicians believe that this is the level where the masses of Belizeans are – the vulgar and the scurvy.
All I can do is shake my head, because 42 years ago the ruling and self-governing PUP decided they were going to put me in jail because of a satiric headline story I’d written in this newspaper. They said the article was bringing the administration of justice into contempt. Amandala was just a little old stencilled four-pager at the time.
Today, some of the stuff that dgoes down on PUDP radio is disgusting and disrespectful. Don’t blame the voices. Blame the sanctimonious, hypocritical politicians who pay them. This stuff was probably okay for the public meetings of yore. Today, the vulgar and the scurvy are polluting the airwaves. You can blame your PUDP politicians for it. This is what you wanted, and this is what you got. PUDP all the way.