THE Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas has denied claims that it had an unfair policy of rejecting Liberal Progressive Party ads before the general election.
The concerns were raised in a report released this weekend by the Commonwealth Observer Group regarding their observations on the recent elections.
In its report, the COG underscored the concern that the national broadcaster ZNS “failed to provide fair access and / or balanced coverage of the activities of political parties and running candidates”.
“This had the effect of depriving citizens of their right to receive balanced information about the election and the candidates,” noted the COG.
The report mentioned that the main opposition political party at the time, the PLP, claimed that the government broadcaster refused to air its ads due to “an alleged contested debt from the last election, even though it proposed to pay in advance and to write off the debt “.
The COG added: “We were unable to determine the veracity of this allegation, but we found it disturbing. “
In a rebuttal, the “outgoing” BCB board said it “categorically denies and refutes the allegation that it has deliberately and unfairly adopted a policy of refusing to accept Liberal Progressive Party advertisements (PLP) “.
The BCB argued: “At no time was the company politically motivated to deal with the repayment of debts owed to it by political parties. The decisions made by the company were based entirely on financial considerations and made on the basis of fairness.
“The company finds it disturbing and unacceptable that the observers, without first contacting the company, made such derogatory and damaging allegations, and then, surprisingly, state” that it was not possible to determine the veracity such claims’ – this cannot be considered balanced or fair.
The statement claimed that the Free National Movement and PLP owed “substantial sums of money” dating back to the 2017 general election.
“In order to ensure its financial sustainability, the company has implemented, among other measures, a vigorous and concerted effort to collect substantial unpaid debts,” the statement said.
It was explained that a decision had been taken by the board of directors several months ago, before the election was called, that “no new advertising, whether prepaid or not, would be aired for a political party until it has first settled its outstanding debts. “
The press release explained that this had been communicated to political parties. While the two main parties expressed their dissatisfaction, before the election was called the ruling party paid off its debt while the PLP made only a small payment to reduce its debt of more than $ 100,000, a declared the BCB.
“When the election was called, the PLP offered to make a payment of $ 75,000 for the repayment of its unpaid debt, which would have left almost the same amount owed and which it offered to pay over time,” he said. noted BCB. “The PLP was informed that, given that the FNM had paid off its debt as a precondition for accepting new announcements, the company could not, in all fairness, accept the offer made to it. In an attempt to help and accommodate the PLP, it was agreed that a portion of the debt, which he was disputing, would be set aside to be dealt with at a later date, thereby reducing the amount of debt. to be repaid as a precondition. to accept new announcements.
“The reduced debt was still over $ 100,000. The PLP then again offered to pay $ 75,000 with the balance to be repaid over time, which, again, the company could not, in the interests of fairness, accept. It should be noted that, despite the fact that the FNM had expressed its desire to occupy most, if not all, of the advertising slots during the election period, the company ensured that at least a third of the slots were reserved. to the PLP the base that would settle its debt. The company offered the PLP to accept the sum of $ 75,000, with the balance, or about $ 37,000, being divided by the number of slots it wanted to take, and the resulting amount to be paid along with payment for each ad, so that when the last slot was paid, the entire debt would be paid off. The company was subsequently informed that the PLP would not advertise with ZNS for the remainder of the election period. “
BCB also said the company has throughout the recent election period “pursued a policy of fairness and balance”.
In response to the BCB, PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell said: Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation (BCB) because they do not have the standing to do so.