Is JIS the new GIS?

Just as some St Lucians, in pronouncing their own language, can wander from G to D, as in glo and dlo, others confuse the pronunciation of G, gee, and J, jay, when spelling words, which is something to bear in mind when reading this a-musing.

The Government Information Service was, as its name declared, a conduit for information that the government felt should be disseminated among the populace. I believe, though I may be wrong, that I have had dealings with every director, or acting director, of the service through the years due to my passion for education. What, after all, is education if not the provision and possible transfer of information?

From the very start, an unpleasant, irritating suspicion has constantly nagged at my mind that the GIS, rather than dealing with Information, was actually disseminating Government propaganda. It was never a question of proving the information the people needed, but rather making sure the populace were fed the information the government of the day decided they needed to have. The government had to be made to look good, which is quite a different matter altogether from disseminating information.

Of course, the fact that each new government got rid of the GIS head and replaced it with one of their own choosing did nothing to allay my suspicions. It looked suspiciously like appointing a mouthpiece of choice: the ultimate Yes-man.

In addition, the Service was always at the beck and call of Ministers eager for exposure. The limited number of cameramen, technicians and reporters meant that if the Minister for Corruption & Bribery, or any other minister, needed coverage, all other coverage stopped for the day.

The month of December, and most of November too, could easily have been erased from the calendar as far as program production was concerned. The GIS was on stand-by for Xmas Greetings & Messages due to the misguided belief among our politicians that the festive season would be ruined for their constituents if they did not receive Christmas Greetings, broadcast nationwide, from their constituency representatives.

I know from personal experience that GIS teams spent many a fruitless hour – perhaps even days – waiting upon busy, busy ministers who were just too busy to get their greetings down on paper; camera shoots were cancelled; appointments were missed; everything was last-minute and chaotic. And you know what? Nobody would have really cared if the ministers had got on with their busy, busy schedules and got their busy, busy work done, and let the GIS function as it was meant to.

And now the GIS has gone to media-heaven – GISRIP – and has been replaced by what, to some, must seem the most cumbersome, illogical, dysfunctional, and cost-ineffective mash-up ever envisioned, sober, inebriated, or high. Ministries will have their own production teams, which means, if these production teams are to function as complete, independent units, a massive increase in office space, transport equipment, cameramen, scriptwriters, producers and editors. These different teams will, of necessity, have to vie for airtime on the television and radio arms of the National Broadcasting Network, which will require a strong central organization to deal with these competing entities. The potential for squabbling is mindboggling.

Then there’s the interesting aspect of the radio arm of the NBN surviving on income from advertising and the television arm being banned from accepting advertising, and being compelled to live off government subsidies and handouts. The new head of NBN, the head of the ersatz GIS, will have to be a strong person with lots of experience in juggling personalities. From what I’ve heard, the person they have in mind – let’s not fool ourselves that the job has been open to honest and fair competition – has no experience in an undertaking of this magnitude, but does have a nice voice, a good smile and, quite possibly, the right political leanings.

But there’s really no need to worry about the success or failure of the NBN. After all, in reality, GIS has already been replaced by JIS, the Jadia Information Service, the real mouthpiece of the government of St Lucia, who is never at a loss for words of praise about her wonderful boss and his inspirational leadership. Now that’s the sort of Real Information a country needs.

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