"Only the Sun Covers the Bahamas Better"-Zephyr Nassau Sunshine (ZNS)



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Introduction


Media within the Bahamas is a growing vocation as the population increases. Being made up of 7,000 islands to the south of Florida, media is dispersed in unequal ratios.

The past few decades have seen television, radio and print medias, all adapt to new regulations and legislation brought in by the Bahamian Government, as well as change of ownership in major companies, such as the Bahamas Telecommunication Company. The purpose of this new legislation is to encourage more vast ownership of media around the islands, because, although there is freedom of speech, news is largely government influenced. As the International Press Institute (2012) suggests, press freedom lags behind, with the Bahamian government being accused of heavily favouring state-owned media over private media.

The Bahamas is currently governed by the Hon. Perry G Christie, Prime Minister and Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). However, as they are a member of the British Commonwealth, the monarch serves as a title head of government.

With a high per-capita income and a 98% literacy rate, the large population (in excess of 360 000 people) is able to reach media with ease, accessing print, radio, television an internet on a regular basis. Media in the Bahamas is dominated by government owned ZNS, which offers the only two free to air television stations, as well as a number of radio stations. These topics will be further discussed throughout the page.





















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Media in the Bahamas


Media in the Bahamas is largely dominated by government owned company, Zephyr Nassau Sunshine (ZNS), which operates several radio networks and the islands' only television station. There are plenty of radio stations through the country (See Media Links, bottom of page), and a multichannel cable television which is widely available. Whilst there are many privately owned press within the islands, the variety of views held by the public, such as criticism of the government (BBC News - Bahamas country profile, 2012), represents the improvement that needs to made in freedom of press. Although the Bahamas has had a lively and relatively free press since the early 1800s, broadcasting was a government monopoly up until 1992.

Radio

A national radio station was first established in the 1930s as a hurricane warning service, using the call letters 'ZNS' (Zephyr Nassau Sunshine). In the 1970s, a statutory corporation was formed to operate ZNS television and radio channels. ZNS now operates a number of government radio, however, this sector of media is the largest, with privately owned stations appearing all over the islands. The following link, Bahamas Radio, shows the top 13 most listened to stations across the country.

ZNS Bahamas- government owned, run by BCB- operates Radio Bahamas (ZNS1)
Inspiration 107.9 (ZNS2), Northern Service (ZNS3), Power 104.5
Star FM - private, commercial
100 Jamz - private, commercial


The Press

Press in the Bahamas is dominated by two major newspapers, The Nassau Guardian and The Freeport News. There are a number of other smaller papers run around the country.

The Nassau Guardian
The Nassau Guardian is the country's oldest newspaper - which has published continuously since it was first founded in 1844 by Edwin Charlies Mosely.

On the 20th of January 2002, The Guardian became fully Bahamian owned, when Emanuel Alexiou and Anthony Ferguson acquired 60% share. The paper is now both the oldest and largest in the Bahamas (The Nassau Guardian 2012).

The Freeport News
A subset of the Nassau Guardian, The Freeport News was the first newspaper publication in Grand Bahama, the northernmost island of the Bahamas. Operating for over 50 years, the Freeport News now reaches 18 000 Bahamians per week via physical distribution, and significantly more through through their website.
They therefore have an extensive reach in Grand Bahama.

Being the only daily news publication on Grand Bahama, The Freeport News exercises what J Street refers to as "discursive power" (Street 2011).

Newspapers


Full links to all media available under 'Links to Media' below

The Freeport News
A daily broadsheet
The Tribune
A daily broadsheet
The Abaconian
Monthly Publication
The Nassau Guardian
A Daily Broadsheet
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Television

Television was first introduced to the Bahamas in 1977, long after mainland America. Although only having a single free-to-air channel, ZNS TV, which is government owned and commercially run by the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas (BCB), the islands have access to multiple cable channels thanks to Canadian owned Cable Bahamas in 1955.
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Taking an alternate option to regular television, Great Bahamian Television (GBTV), presents an online tv service, offering a multitude of channels and streams
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for viewers. The service is free, as advertising pays for it to continue. GBTV states that
"We're not on cable, satellite or on broadcast. But just because we don't show up on your TV set in the family room is not a disadvantage to us! Think about it: how many hours a day do you spend in front of your TV? Three? Four? Now: how many hours do you spend on your computer, smart phone or other Internet-enabled device? Eight? Ten? Exactly!" (GBTV, 2012)

The Internet

Telecommunications services have been deregulated in Bahamas, however it remains uncertain when the state-owned phone utility, Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) will be privatised. The Bahamas Government has recently sold the 51% share they held of the company, to global corporation Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), for $210 million, who already offer world-wide mobile broadband, phone line services and pay T.V. to over 38 countries.

Systems Resource Group (SRG) became the first private company to offer fixed voice services in the Bahamas in the late 2004, operating under the brand name called IndiGo.

The total Bahamas market is about 90,000 households. Cable Bahamas provides television and pay-per-view services to 90% of these households over its fibre-optic network. The Bahamas Telecommunications Company also has a nationwide fibre network.

Cable Bahamas launched Broadband Internet Service in early 2000 and later installed a fibre cable between Florida and the Bahamas to upgrade connection speeds. It has over 40,000 cable modem subscribers.

The government-owned Bahamas Telecommunications Company now has over 15,000 DSL subscribers. Bahamas Online - the country's first private Internet provider - was acquired by Cable Bahamas in 2004.

The Bahamas has approximately 164, 180 internet users as of 30 June 2012 (InternetWorldStats 2012).

Internet Domain
.bs
Country Code
+1242

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Usage
Coralwave
cable, direct fibre
Batelnet
Dial up, DSL
Speedway Internet
Dial up, DSL, wireless
DSL Bahamas
DSL
BCG
Wireless
Out Island Internet
Dialup, wireless


Social Networking in the Bahamas


Bahamians have gathered themselves in the social media network over the last few years just like the rest of the global citizens. The population of social media network users has doubled since 2009, and currently there are approximately 160, 000 Bahamians on Facebook whom are eligible voters. (Get Social Bahamas 2012)

In the past elections, most communication by parties occurred through traditional media platforms. Today however, social media has increasingly changed the ways in which citizens participate in the political, cultural and social process, actions and directions.

The National Development Party (NDP) was driven into the Bahamian consciousness through social media. The popularity of the The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has also been fuelled through social media.

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The largest age group is currently 18 - 24 with total of 47 630 users, followed by the users in the age of 25 - 34.

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Public Broadcasting in the Bahamas


The Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas (BCB) & ZNS Network


[General Manager: Mr Edwin Lightbourn]
Founded in 1937, the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas (BCB) remains the sole government-owned broadcaster in the Islands, transmitting their television and radio programs through the Zephyr Nassau Sunshine (ZNS) network. From 1950 to present, the BCB has relied on advertising revenue in addition to government subsidy for funding.zns_network logo.jpg

Over the past years, the BCB has played a very important role in unifying the Bahamian archipelago and maintaining a widely spread population informed about national developments and changes. ZNS remains the only radio station today with broadcast coverage of the entire nation.

According to the Company Vision and Mission Statement, the Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas is committed to delivering:

"Value to the Bahamian people by providing a vital space for free expression, cultural exploration and open debate; by catering to diverse public interests; by pursuing broadcasting excellence; and by promoting national identity and a sense of community." (The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, 2012)
Through their ZNS network, the BCB transmit the only free-to-air television station of the Bahamas, ZNS-TV 13. From its launch in 1977 to 1995, ZNS-TV was the only television service available in the Bahamas. This was until Canadian-owned company Cable Bahamas began to transmit cable television in 1995, also extending their services to internet in 2000. However, since its inception Cable Bahamas has broadcast the BCB Parliamentary Channel. ZNS-TV 13 is also broadcast via Cable Bahamas.

2009 saw the Bahamian Government lay out reforms for the entire communications sector, involving enhanced and comprehensive new legislation, which established a converged regulator (Utilities Regulatory and Competition Authority). During 2012, ZNS went under major reconstruction for it's anticipated role as the official public service broadcast for the island (The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, 2012).
This public company now employs over 140 people in both the radio and television sector.

Screen Shot 2012-08-16 at 9.56.27 AM.pngThe ZNS station supports itself with a combination of government subsidy and advertising revenue. Employees of the company have described it as "neither a public service department or a public corporation, but something in between" (ZNS- The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, 2012). The station pays its own debts and holds its own bank account, separate from the government.
The ZNS network transmits several radio programs, including ZNS-1 (1540AM), ZNS-2 FM "Inspiration" in the Islands' capital Nassau (107.9FM) and ZNS-3 (104.5FM).

ZNS TV-13 transmits its programming free-to-air in New Providence, using a 5KW transmitter, and via Cable Bahamas to 16 islands throughout the country.

Since 1995, ZNS has operated the Parliamentary Channel on cable channel 50, covering proceedings in the House of Assembly and Senate on behalf of the government of the Bahamas.

The BCB is committed to the following core values:
  • National development, identity and culture
  • Good governance, ethics and integrity
  • Managerial, journalistic and creative freedom
  • Tolerance and respect for diversity
  • Public accountability and transparency
  • Efficiency and effectiveness
  • (The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, 2012)


Emerging trends in Media Ownership


Mass media in the Bahamas appears under the following guide;
'Electronic media are increasingly becoming government agencies while daily newspapers remain as either foreign or local, privately owned media and non-dailies as political party newspapers' (Lent 1977, p. 103). The dailies within the Bahamas, represent the larger portion of local owned media, which is the most significantly private owned on the island. Over the country, there is a dominance of government owned media.

Regulation of Media in the Bahamas

Legislation


The Commonwealth of the Bahamas does not have a Press Council, Media Ombudsmen or a Code of Ethics, and as such, "labor, business and professional organisation are generally free from government interference". (Freedom House 2008)

However, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas complies with many international charters and organisations that impact the way in which the media operates.
As a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is required to uphold the International Standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Clauses relevant to the media include Article 12, that states:
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, not to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." (United Nations 2012b)
Also, Article 19 that states:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." (United Nations 2012b)

Another United Nations charter the Bahamas abides by, is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 19 is applicable to the media in how they approach their work and whether they can be persecuted for what they communicate.

Article 19
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, whether orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
(United Nations 2007)

Regulation

Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority (URCA)
The URCA serves as the primary governing body of the Bahamas regulatory regime. Directed by Kathleen Smith and chaired by Mr Randel Dorsett, it was implemented in 2009 and is "committed to achieving sustainable competition and promoting consumer interests, through effective and efficient regulation of utilities and broadcasting" (URCA 2012). The URCA was first established as an independant regulator, responsible for licensing and the overseeing of all electronic communication in the Bahamas, including phone services as well as broadcast media. It also examines competition issues, including the abuse of a dominant position and mergers. (URCA 2012)

The Communications Act 2009, gave the URCA full power in regards to regulation upon its arrival on 1 September 2009. From this date, competition within the country has been slowly increasing thereby benefiting only the economy, and all persons within the Bahamas (URCA 2012).

Freedom of Press and information


There have been accusations against the government of the Bahamas suggesting the heavy favouritism of state-owned media over private media. The IPI (International Press Institute) drew attention to the need for safety and freedom of press with the coverage of this years parliamentary elections in May. "Criminal-defamation laws, whether during election season or not, contribute to hesitation and self-censorship on the part of the media - hindering the free flow of information and, ultimately, democracy," states Deputy IPI Director Anthony Mills. Mills highlighted that "Journalists convicted of negligent libel and intentional libel can be punished with six months and two years in prison, respectively".
(Freedom House 2012)

In April 2012, the IPI explained that although freedom of press is evident in the country, there is a lot to be done to enhance it. The government of the Bahamas has been accused of favouring state owned media over private, resulting in a less critical response on behalf of the public. (International Press Institute 2012)

"The Bahamas has a well-developed tradition of respecting freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Daily and weekly newspapers, all privately owned, express a variety of views on public issues, as do the government-run radio station and four privately owned radio broadcasters." (UNHRC 2012)

The Bahamas enforce strict Libel laws "for better protection of a private charter, and for more effectively securing the liberty of the press, and for better preventing abuses in exercising said liberty", a full arrangement of sections can be found here. (Bahamas Laws 2012)
While these laws exist, "The defendant may plead that it was inserted without malice or neglect and pay money to the court as ameds". (Bahamas Laws 2012)

Freedom house argues that all levels of government face the issue of corruption with top officials frequently facing allegations. A Freedom of information bill was passed this year.

The objects of the act are:
  • governmental accountability
  • transparency; and
  • public participation in national decision making, by granting to the public a general right of access held by the public authorities, subject to objections which balance that right against the public interest in exempting from disclosure governmental, commercial or personal information.

A full copy of the bill can be found here.
(Human Rights Initiative 2012)

The bill will enable any Bahamian citizen or permanent resident the right to apply for access to information such as government meeting minutes, travel allowances and spending reports.
The bill also acts to protect whistle blowers publishing information on illegal activities but "will not apply to the judiciary, uniformed services or financial supervision agencies."
(Freedom Info 2012)
This exemption is "in respect of their strategic or operational intelligence gathering". (Freedom Info 2012)


Free National Movement (FNM)

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The Free National Movement (FNM) is a socially liberal and economically conservative political party in the Bahamas. Led by the RT. HON. Humbert Ingraham, the FNM was formed in 1971 by a union called “Free-PLP” and the United Bahamian Party.

“The Free National Movement was born out of a struggle for greater accountability and transparency. The party cut its teeth in the fight to deliver our country from political corruption and victimisation, and it reached maturity as a government whose tenure and accomplishments have become the standard against which all future governments of The Bahamas will be judged.” (Free National Movement 2012)

Over 40 years ago, the founders of the FNM had the wisdom and vision to recognise the absence of truly demographic principals within the leadership of the then-governing party. They separated themselves and adopted “FREE” as their new motto. These ‘Dissident Eight’ held themselves to the highest standard, triggered and motivated by a love of their country and a commitment to serve all Bahamians in as fair and equitable ways as possible. Today, the Bahamas continues to consider the FNM in the highest regard. The FNM leaders have been influential figures in Bahamian history, citizens, honour and ethics. (Free National Movement 2012)


Links to Media

Newspapers

Radio

Magazines

Televison

Internet News Media



Media and Cultural Diversity


The Bahamas has a total population of 316,182 people, all of different genders, ages, religions, cultures. With diverse and various cultures within the Bahamas, the media have to meet the differentiated needs of the people of the Bahamas. Due to a large percentage of Christians in Bahamas, there is wide coverage of Christian based stories in the news. Also the main age group is around the teens, so there is frequent use of social media to broadcast news and current affairs.

In terms of religion, 96.3% of the people in Bahamas are Christian, which includes Baptist, Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal, Church of God, Methodist and other Christian denominations. The Nassau Guardian website http://www.thenassauguardian.comhas an area dedicated to news relating to religion where a mass amount of these stories are based on Christian people and events. Such stories include ‘Keep God’s laws in your heart’ and ‘The Holy Spirit is God’s deposit of guarantee to you’. These articles contain bible verses and are published on a daily basis on their website and newspapers, aimed to be read by the Christian people of the country. These examples of religious stories demonstrate how the Nassau Guardian is dealing with the cultural diversity in the country. The ZNS website also has access to religious articles based around Christianity. Additionally, the ZNS T.V station provides Christian programming. They show live Sunday Morning Worship from St Barnabas Anglican church on television, which is another example of how the media manages cultural diversity within the region. The high percentage of Christians in the Bahamas reflects the significant media coverage and press on Christian events, people and stories.

In terms of age, the biggest age group is 10-14, followed by 15-19 and then 20-24. As a large part of the Bahamas population is relatively young in age the Bahamas press have various methods to get young people involved and interested in media and news particularly through the internet and social media. Nassau Guardian has a Twitter page (http://twitter.com/NASSAUGBiz/) and a Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Nassau-Guardian/45167922304) where people can follow and receive regular updates about news and information. Not only does Nassau Guardian use social media, but ZNS, Abaco life, GBTV and many others use Facebook and Twitter to reach to young people who use social media. The use of Facebook and Twitter allows these media institutions to regularly post up news updates and information which can be easily accessed by young people through computers and phone. This method has been use effectively by the various institutions to aid young people connected to events in their region.

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File:Bahamas population pyramid 2005.png

References


ABYZ News Links 2000, Bahamas Newspapers - Bahamas Newspaper & News Media Guide, accessed 2 August 2012, <http://www.abyznewslinks.com/baham.htm>.

Bahamas Telecommunications Authority 2012, BTC Bahamas - Home, accessed 7 August 2012, <http://www2.btcbahamas.com/>.

Freedom House 2012, Bahamas, accessed 15 August 2012, <http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2012/bahamas>.

Freedom House 2008, Freedom in the World 2008 - Bahamas, accessed 6 August 2012, <http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/487ca1f0a.html>.

International Press Institute 2012, IPI Urges Bahamas to Respect Press Freedom During Election Season, accessed 16 August 2012, <http://www.freemedia.at/home/singleview/article/ipi-urges-bahamas-to-respect-press-freedom-during-election-season.html>.

Free National Movement 2012, About the FNM, accessed 16 August 2012, <https://www.fnm2012.org/the-fnm/about-the-fnm/>.

GBTV 2012, About GBTV, accessed 16 August 2012, <http://gbtvbahamas.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=69&Itemid=37>.

Get Social Bahamas 2012, Helping Local Businesses Turn Online Users into Paying Customers, accessed 14 August 2012, <http://www.getsocialbahamas.com/>.

GOVERNMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF THE BAHAMAS 2011, "Govt Concludes Agreement for Sale of 51 Percent Interest in BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications." [press release], February 8th 2011.

Indexmundi 2012, Bahamas, The Demographics Profile 2012, accessed 13 August 2012, <http://www.indexmundi.com/the_bahamas/demographics_profile.html>.

Lent, J 1977, Third World Mass media and Their Search for Moderninity: The case of Commonwealth Carribean. New Jersey: Associated University Press, p. 103-113.

BBC News 2012, BBC News - Bahamas country profile, accessed 10 August 2012, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1154642.stm#media>.

Parliament of the Bahamas 2012, Freedom of Information Bill, Human Rights Initiative, accessed 9 August 2012, <http://www.humanrightsinitiative.org/postoftheday/Bahamas-FOIBill-2012.pdf>.

Statute Law of the Bahamas 2001, Chapter 72 Libel, accessed 15 August 2012, <http://laws.bahamas.gov.bs/cms/images/LEGISLATION/PRINCIPAL/1847/1847-0008/LibelAct_1.pdf>.

Street, J 2011, Mass Media, Politics and Democracy, 2nd edn, Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke, p. 283-302.

The Nassau Guardian 2012, The Nassau Guardian, accessed 14 August 2012, <http://www.thenassauguardian.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=68&Itemid=30>.

United Nations 2007, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, accessed 6 August 2012, <http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm>.

United Nations 2012, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The United Nations, accessed 6 August 2012, <http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/>.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation 2012a, Media Accountability System, UNESCO, accessed 6 August 2012, <http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/freedom-of-expression/professional-journalistic-standards-and-code-of-ethics/the-caribbean/commonwealth-of-the-bahamas/media-accountability-system/>.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation 2012b, Media Legislation, UNESCO, accessed 6 August 2012, <http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/freedom-of-expression/professional-journalistic-standards-and-code-of-ethics/the-caribbean/commonwealth-of-the-bahamas/media-legislation/>.

Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority 2012, About Us - Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority, accessed 16 August 2012, <http://www.urcabahamas.bs/about.php>.

ZNS Network 2012, ZNS - The Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, accessed 9 August 2012, <http://www.znsbahamas.com/history.php>.