Questions are flying left, right and centre over the Prime Minister’s apparent disagreement with a recent BBC report. These questions include: what exactly is Dr. Rowley angry about and whether his approach to addressing it is the right one. And while we have our views on the matter, we feel the best way to win any fight of this nature is with facts. When two parties have a disagreement that revolves around information that is verifiable, we say, bring on the facts. And this goes for all arguments, not just the brewing tiff between the PM and the BBC.
Our Prime Minister seems troubled mainly by the report which states that there are around 40 thousand Venezuelan refugees here in Trinidad, of which less than half was allowed to register recently to temporarily legalise their status. He also appeared upset by what he insists is the BBC’s failure to contact him or another official source in his government to verify certain things before the report was published. Dr. Rowley even threatened to write to the British government to complain about the alleged inaccuracies.
In response to this apprehension, the British High Commissioner to Port of Spain took to social media to state that the BBC, despite being taxpayer funded, is an independent body and his government will not interfere. The BBC says its figure of 40 thousand Venezuelan immigrants was quoted by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, the UNHCR, and other sources for which evidence was provided. Which brings us back to our original point of combating this controversy with facts. Dr. Rowley needs to provide hard evidence to support his objections if he hopes to win that fight.
But the most troubling part of this whole squabble comes from the Prime Minister’s response to the British High Commissioner’s social media post that the BBC is independent. He questioned the broadcaster’s autonomy by suggesting that the government of the U.K. grants it billions of Pounds annually and in return they mirror its policy and sends coded messages around the world on behalf of the British Government.
It is known nationally that State media includes a television station and a few radio stations that have never been able to turn a profit in decades. In fact each and every year they receive millions of dollars in support from the government so that they could remain in operation while other local media struggle to remain viable. Is the Prime Minister suggesting that in return for millions in funding that TTT ‘mirrors and reflects’ the policies of the Trinidad and Tobago government? And that it sends coded messages around the world on behalf of the T&T government? What must the public deduce from these utterances? This is a truly worrying development that needs further clarification.