Last week, the United National Congress (UNC) jumped to a very hasty conclusion about Guardian Media Limited’s (GML) hiring of media practitioner Jason “JW” Williams as the new host of CNC3’s The Morning Brew.
On the very day Mr Williams debuted as the show’s host, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar raised it at the party’s Monday Night Forum. Two days later, UNC PRO Dr Kirk Meighoo—his latest political incarnation following his stint as leader of the defunct Democratic National Assembly (DNA)—argued that hiring Williams was “gross disrespect to the official Opposition and its over 300,000 supporters” and announced that the party’s representatives will no longer appear on the show.
The UNC’s claim that Mr Williams is not capable of being fair and unbiased because he was a candidate for the People’s National Movement (PNM) in last year’s general election is at best misguided. Conveniently overlooked is that Mr Williams is an experienced media professional well qualified to host a show of the calibre of The Morning Brew.
With its current stance, the UNC is going the route of others who have made unfounded claims of bias in the past but GML’s solid track record of independence from interference has withstood decades of threats from political officeholders.
PNM’s Dr Eric Williams burnt a copy of the T&T Guardian in Woodford Square and UNC founder Basdeo Panday once called for a boycott of this newspaper.
Mr Panday’s famous declaration that politics has a morality of its own rings true today when one considers how different his party’s response was in 2013 when its defeated candidate for St Joseph Ian Alleyne was rehired by GML to continue his Crime Watch programme. There were no claims of bias then, not even when Mr Alleyne used his airtime on CNC3 to criticise Prime Minister Rowley and his administration.
And what about that time in 1995 when Harry Partap, then an editor at the Trinidad Express Newspaper, stunned his media colleagues when he appeared on a UNC platform as the candidate for Nariva?
While UNC officials are busy pointing accusing fingers at CNC3, they seem to have no problem with their former government minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie hosting a morning talk show on another television station. Interestingly, one of his recent guests was Prime Minister Rowley.
There are others in similar positions, including former Oropouche West MP Mickela Panday who co-hosts a programme on state-owned television, Barrington “Skippy” Thomas, another defeated UNC candidate, who has a radio talk show and Opposition Senator Anil Roberts, who hosts a talk programme on social media.
If it is acceptable for Dr Suruj Rambachan, who was until recently a UNC MP, to provide his services to a GML-affiliated radio station, why these strident objections to a former PNM candidate as the host of a morning show?
The fragility of the UNC’s position was underscored on Friday when the Crime Watch host was Mr Williams’ guest on The Morning Brew. That demonstrates the value of a diverse media landscape offering a range of perspectives and vibrant and thought-provoking debate, reinforcing GML’s commitment to providing space for all, regardless of political persuasion.