REPORT #178 Feb 2000

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

This subject has come up in Belize for more than 30 years. The thing that keeps newspapers going is the advertising paid. Without advertising you do not get a newspaper that lasts. When building the nation of Belize, one of the backbones of building such a nation, is the fostering of regional newspapers.

In a country like Belize, this is very important. But district regional newspapers in Belize have had a very tough row to hoe. Basically, they have suffered from government and political apathy. This is probably, because the crooked electoral districts give only the district capital of the Belize District the majority control of the two major political parties and in turn the control of the national government in Belmopan. These two parties in turn, favor the one district capital that is the home of most of their votes, seats and control of the nation. So all government advertising to newspapers is confined to this one town.

In building a nation of Belize, one has to consider that fostering local pride, responsibility and involving locals in the national debates are very important parts of national affairs. This is most importantly done through district regional newspapers. Government of today and past governments, dominated by the Belize District capital political party machines have ignored this aspect of nation building. To their own personal advantage with the establishment of political party newspapers and that sort of thing in the Belize District capital the center of their power.

Recently, the Political Reform Commission was surprised how little local people in the other five districts knew about how the government in Belmopan and Belize City worked? It should not have come as a surprise, because the rest of the five districts are treated like the hind end of a mule. To be ignored, avoided and forgotten, except when it can serve their purposes by those in the political parties dominating the nation from the one district town where political power is concentrated.

The Prime Minister, Said Musa, recently as last week, said in a speech at a school, that the debate and comprehension of the National Health plan had not been done by government in a proper manner, and thus there were many misunderstandings and little comprehension about the Health Scheme. He promised to fix that.

How pray tell, can you fix something, if you do not foster the mechanisms of democracy that lubricate discourse, debate and comprehension and self identity as a nation? To whit; community regional district newspapers.

I've said it before and will say it again for those deaf, blind and dumb politicians from the Belize District that control the country. You need legislation, that requires ANY GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT that has to take out any newspaper advertisements, to insert those advertisements equally in the six districts media sources. Be they newspapers, radio, or television stations where they exist in each district. You will have to make it LAW. By legislation that national government departments that print any notices in any newspaper are accountable by law, with heavy fines ( say five times the cost of the advertisement neglected, plus lawyers and court costs) payable to the offended newspaper. Any government department that advertises, must do so in each of the six districts equally.

Only so, can you lubricate the blood of discourse, debate and national identity through the private sector media sources. It is the role of the national government to build infra-structure throughout the nation of Belize. Part of this infra-structure is support through government paid advertising, to help maintain district media sources. It works out in the longer run, to the advantage of the national government and is indeed a very cost efficient way of disseminating information on goverment progress for various projects, and desires. It is a far cheaper way of funding distribution of government propoganda, creating democracy and finding consensus.

At the time of this writing Jan 29, 2000, the cost of the average weekly district media newspaper is minimally around $2000 Bz per issue. Advertising must pay those basic costs. Government departmental advertising is a cheap way of fostering unity, national pride and identity and spreading the knowledge of whatever is going on, up in the capital at Belmopan. It is also the most cost effective way of disseminating knowledge and debate on issues such as "how the government works", or "the National Health Scheme" issue, which most Belizeans have never heard of.

You politicians in Belmopan do your job! Make some legislation and pass it, requiring all national government departments to advertise equally in every district of the nation, not just in the port Belize City. MAKE IT THE LAW OF THE LAND! BUILD A NATION!

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