Senator the Hon. Kay Forbes-Smith, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister in Freeport, speaks during the 2008/09 Budget Debate in the Senate.Â Â (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)
By: Lindsay Thompson
NASSAU, The Bahamas – Steps are underway to provide â€œmore resourcesâ€ for the Bahamas Information Services in order to improve the quality of work delivered to the public, said Senator the Hon. Kay Forbes-Smith in her budget presentation to the Senate on Thursday, June 19, 2008.
Senator Smith, the Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister in Freeport, Grand Bahama, has responsibility for BIS and the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas.
â€œThe restructuring at BIS was designed to resolve certain anomalies, define responsibilities more clearly, institute more discipline and to re-order the chain of authority, so as to enable BIS to function at its full potential,â€ Senator Smith said.
The Bahamas Information Services was established by an Act of Parliament in October 1974 and is the official news agency of the Government, with responsibility for liasing with the media on behalf of government ministries and departments.
The general functions are to inform the public of Government policies and activities, to provide a central channel for the flow of information to, and enquiries from the public, press and other media; to advise the Government in relation to the dissemination of information about the work of the Government, and to take all such measures as may be required to carry out effectively the functions specified, according to the Act.
â€œMuch progress was made and restructuring initiated during the past fiscal year at BIS,â€ Senator Smith said.
Amongst those changes being a new Director General appointed with overall responsibility for the control and direction of the department. An additional Deputy Director was appointed at BIS in the Office of the Prime Minister, Freeport.
â€œThe two deputy directors are responsible for the print, broadcast and information technology divisions. The post of Executive Director was regularised to have responsibility for the day-to-day administrative operation of the agency,â€ Senator Smith said.
â€œThese efforts have already resulted in a dramatic increase in productivity, especially in the timely distribution of news articles and photographs to the media,â€ she added.
Regarding ZNS, Senator Smith said that its transformation â€œis criticalâ€ to the growth and development of the country.
She said that the government is addressing the challenges facing the corporation, particularly in the face of global digital television.
In order to facilitate this move, an executive management team would be appointed to â€œprovide the vision and leadershipâ€ required to transform ZNS.
â€œThis team will demonstrate the ability to better manage its budget and bring fiscal prudence to an organisation that has historically been considered a drain on the public purse,â€ Senator Smith said.
She added that the chairman and the board of directors are working with executive management to ensure the creation of an organisational structure that â€œcauses the organisation to become more efficient and productive in the execution of its duties.â€
In May, ZNS completed the upgrades to the Northern Service Antenna System, replacing a condemned tower and installing ground radials to re-establish its signal pattern to comply with internationally approved directional array, Senator Smith said.
The 1540 AM portion of ZNS network is in â€œdire needâ€ of an upgrade, she said. The obsolete 50 kilowatt transmitter is only producing 8 kilowatts of power, making it â€œimpossible to serviceâ€ a portion of the central and all of the southeast Bahamas.
The corporation is also embarking on the New Providence Upgrade Project, Senator Smith said. Already purchased are the replacement directional tower and the required material to re-establish the signal pattern. The new state-of-the-art 50-kilowatt transmitter is scheduled to be delivered by mid-July. A contractor has been engaged to ensure installation within the eight-week specified time.
â€œSo we are optimistic that before the end of the summer, the AM network of the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas will be fully restored and providing the essential service to the entire country,â€ Senator Smith said.
Another budgetary provision is the redevelopment of the News Department and television programming and production, training of staff and other infrastructural changes, she said.
There is also a move to transform ZNS into a National Public Service Broadcaster. Discussions began in January when the Government, ZNS and corporate partners hosted the 27th Biennial Conference of the Commonwealth Broadcast Association in Nassau.