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Violence and News Part II Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 25 October 2012 00:00

In “Violence and News Part I”, we looked at the two most popular news producers in Belize, 7 News and Channel 5 News, and found that in one week 37 of 42 pieces featuring subjects 25 years of age and younger were crime reports. The executive producer of both newscasts were unapologetic about their coverage despite the fact that the Prime Minister’s Chief Executive Officer, Audrey Wallace said, “Increasingly the Belize Broadcasting Association (BBA) has been receiving a lot of complaints about the graphic details featured in news and the impact it has on children watching.”

Without intervention by the Belize Broadcasting Authority (BBA), the content in local news is unlikely to change. That intervention is unlikely to happen since Wallace explained the difficulty of finding a balance between “emphasizing the need for sensitization and being accused of censoring the media”. Wallace pointed out that the Belize Broadcasting Act has been reviewed and the belief is that it needs to be amended for the authorities to effectively regulate the industry. The Act was passed in 1984 and is inadequate for the modern media. The Act provides the BBA with no authority to control content. In essence, the BBA is simply a door watcher. It decides who gets to operate in the media but doesn’t control what they do once inside. Wallace said that there are a lot of provisions in the Act that needs to be revised and as the BBA continues to review its policies and role in the media, Wallace said, “We will also begin to focus on regulating content.” She stressed however, that the BBA will be careful not to engage in censorship because it has no place in a democratic society.

Until the BBA is able to revamp its code of ethics in local broadcasting, those raising concerns about the violent content in news are left at the mercy of the news producers. Based on their comments last week, readers will understand that they have no plans to change their “if it bleeds it leads” policy. Understanding that, the United Nation’s Children Fund is requesting an improvement in the standard of reporting. Christine Norton, Country Representative for UNICEF, is challenging journalists to look beyond the immediate story. She suggests we look into the background of the subjects. That means reporting more than the shooting was done by a 14-year-old. It means shedding light on the life of the 14-year-old to get viewers to understand what happened before that child pick up the gun. It means asking what alternative did the child have and is any of his siblings at risk of falling into the same trap. Looking beyond the story means presenting young viewers with alternatives to the choices that were taken by the 14-year-old, who picked up the gun and opened fire at another.

Norton’s recommendations would definitely yield results if one desires to improve their standard of reporting. However, those most powerful in the media seem uninterested in being lectured by organizations such as UNICEF and other civil society groups about their portrayal of youths in the news. UNICEF’s efforts have created a backlash as 7 News’ Jules Vasquez was willing to go on record in calling UNICEF “the greatest exploiters of children in the world”. He points to posters situated in UNICEF offices around the world and asked, “Did those children ask to be on those posters?”     
For comments on this article and “Violence and News Part I” email the writer at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .