1. Introduction




Screen Shot 2012-08-09 at 9.22.48 AM.png


The country of Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, is located on the north east coast of Central America. The north is bordered by Mexico, south and west by Guatemala, and the east coast is bordered by the Carribean Sea. Although English is the official spoken langauge of Belize, Spanish and Kriol (an English based Spanish) are more commonly used. Belize has the smallest population density in central America with a population of 356 600 as at 2011. The culture of Belize is extremely diverse due to the strong British influence, and it is the only country in the surrounding region that has a British Colonial Heritage. Combined with the strong Latin American and Carribean influences, this makes for a very assorted different society with various cultures and languages. Belize only became independant of its British founders in 1981, much later than most other countries due to a border issue. This independence occured rather recently, so Belize still follows many of Britain's laws and traditions. The nation uses the English common law system and is a parlimentary democracy with a Commonwealth realm with the British monarch as the Head of State, although it is represented by a Govenor General and a Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister is Dean Barrows, the first black Prime Minister of Belize, was elected through the United Denmographic Party (UDP) after uprooting the People's United Party (PUP), which had been in power for ten years. In the last few years of PUP's rule, there were many allegations of corruption, resulting in their loss of the election. The constitution that Belize follows ensures the right to freedom of expression, but within reason, much like Australia where rules must be followed regarding public order, national security and morality. As for access to media Belize has no daily newspapers, only weeklies subsidied by politcal parties, commercial radio stations, privately owned television stations and also limited access to foreign networks.
                          • belize_flag.jpg





  • The media industry in Belize, is significantly smaller and less diverse than many other countries, this is mainly due to its smaller population. In comparison to Australia who has 104 television broadcast stations, Belize simply has 2 stations. Similarly, 96.55% of Australian households have a television, whilst 70.2% of Belizean households have a television. There are 25.5 million radios in Australia and 133 000 radios in Belize. This means that Australia has 191 times more radios than Belize, and when considering their relative populations, 37% of the Belizean population have radios, whilst 113%of Australians own a radio. The differences in the percentages above, reflects the reach in which the media may have in the country, and also the choice of what is published in the media.

  • Belize has not suffered from neighbouring press interference over the years as it is majorly self regulated within its own borders. Newspapers in Belize are regulated by the government, so are not subject to unwated interference from surrounding countries. As for entertainment, Belize does receive television stations from the United States and Mexico via satellite. The privatized (since 1998) Belize Broadcasting network whose slogan is 'The world is watching Belize' provides shows in English and Spanish and, at their own discretian, does not broadcast news at weekends or public holidays.


  • 2. Types of Media

The primary means of mass communication or media in Belize exist through the forms of the press, television and the radio. However, Belize also makes use of the internet as it is a widely accessible source of media for the location.

The Press


Belize has no daily newspapers, however the publishing of some weekly papers are mainly supported by political parties. The newspapers which are published in Belize are listed below:
  • The 'Amandala' is a popular weekly newspaper which widely read amongst the population of Belize
  • 'The Belize Times' is the oldest, continuously published weekly newspaper that is officially regarded as a "...mouthpiece of the People's United Party"
  • 'The Reporter' is another weekly newspapers which focuses on including top news, sports and feature stories
  • 'The San Pedro sun' is considered weekly "tourism and community orientated" newspaper published on island of Ambergris Caye
  • 'The Guardian' is a newspaper which includes features such as editorials, letters, cartoons, news on politics and sports; it is also classified as being an advocate for the United Democratic Party (UDP).

Screen Shot 2012-08-08 at 9.34.05 PM.png
The Guardian
Screen Shot 2012-08-08 at 9.25.02 PM.png
The Belize Times

Radio


Radio listeners rely on a range of commercial outlets, most of them networked nationwide. In Belize there are approximately 25 radio stations broadcasting on roughly 50 different frequencies. The Belize National Radio Network is a government station which operates in all districts of Belize city; this particular radio network transmits in English and Spanish. Also, the main radio stations in Belize which are in higher demand are listed below:
  • 'Love FM' is a commercial radio station which focuses on broadcasting popular music and interesting news
  • 'Estereo Amor' is a privately owned radio station which broadcasts its entertainment in the Spanish language
  • 'KREM-FM'/KZZU is a privately owned commercial radio station which broadcasts music and news
  • 'Wave Radio' is a political radio station which is endorsed by the UDP
  • 'Vibes Radio' is a political radio organisation that is associated with the PUP

Television


Privately-owned TV stations are on the air and multichannel cable TV which is available in the main towns, provides access to foreign stations.
In Belize, two privately owned television stations exist, the first commercial television station with its own production capability in Belize known as 'Channel 5' was given a broadcasting license by the government in 1991. The parent company of Channel 5 is known as 'Great Belize Productions Ltd.'; and this company is dedicated to achieving two chief objectives as a main source of news and media for Belize. These objectives include:
  • "Providing timely and accurate news and information with impartiality, honesty, excellence and integrity."
  • "Providing programs that seek to educate, entertain and challenge it's audience to be the conscience of society."

Another important source of media and news in Belize is known as 'Channel 7'; which is a commercial TV channel similar to Channel 5 in that its main objective is to keep Belize up to date with the news headlines important on both a local and international scale. Ultimately, Channel 7 is a television media source in Belize where "News comes first"; as their company motto states.

Internet


BTL (Belize Telemedia Limited) is the largest internet service provider in Belize. So large it is regarded by many as a "monopoly"-- with 27 companies granted licenses to provide internet access in Belize. Although some satellite providers exist, BTL has a practical monopoly on internet access. As stated by the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) world fact-book, in 2009 Belize had approximately 36000 internet users, ranked at 178th in the world; accumulating to around 11% of its population. In comparison, the United States, ranked 2nd, had approximately 245,000,000 users or 77% of the population; and Australia, ranked 25th, had roughly 15,810,000 users or 71% of its' population. These figures highlight how the internet is not the fundamental source of media for the population of Belize, unlike how it is for other highly populated nations throughout the world.

3. Ownership of the Media


In 2004 there were 10 privately owned commercial radio stations and one British military radio station. There were also two privately owned television broadcasters and several cable stations.

Government ownership


The Belize National Radio Network is a government station streamed in the heart of Belize City, transmitting in English and Spanish. The company began transmissions in 1990, as a private company.

Within Belize, there are several politically affiliated and/or owned media platforms and organisations. The UDP owns, funds and controls both radio stations and newspapers. Historically, the UDP has owned several newspapers. The current paper, and "political organ" of the UDP is The Guardian Newspaper. First published in 1998, it was intended to be a contributing factor to improving of the parties reputation after loosing their 1998 general election. In recent times, it has moreso been utilised in such a way to discredit the ruling - and opposing - PUP. Also established in 1998 is Wave Radio, the radio arm of the UDP. This station was formed after the collapse of the Broadcasting Corporation of Belize, or Radio Belize, and all connections with the UDP were initially denied, despite public speculation and doubt.

The current ruling party - The PUP - also owns media in Belize. The Belize Times was founded in 1950, and as a weekly newspaper is the PUP's official political "organ". It was established due to a split in the party which saw Philip Goldson, owner of The Belize Billboard, resign and sever ties with the PUP. Like the UDP, the PUP has also expanded their influence using radio. The party owns Positive Vibes FM, which was purchased from Gerald Garbutt in 2006, and it is managed by Vaughan Gill - a long time employee of the PUP secretariat.

BTL is the largest telecommunications company in Belize. In a controversial move by the government, it was nationalised in August 2009 with the government acquiring more than 90% of the company shares. This was widely protested, however the Supreme Court upheld the nationalisation on the condition that the government provided immediate compensation for shareholders. However a statement by the Belizean Court of Appeals which declared the move "unconstitutional" saw a second nationalisation by the government, with those aspects deemed "illegal" in the first one amended. Additionally, a constitutional amendment was introduced that ensures government control of public utilities.

Private ownership


There are several main corporations operating within Belize, however there is little competition.

A dominant radio broadcasting center in Belize is RSV Media Center, or RSV Ltd. Established in 1993, it is the parent company of the radio station LOVE FM - the first and only radio station to broadcast across the entirety of Belize - and additional stations such as Estereo Amor and MORE FM. RSV is also invested in television, with Love Belize Television operating from the center.

Another major media corporation is Kremandala Ltd, with has stakes in the press, radio and television. This organisation includes The Amandala, Belize's largest independent newspaper since gaining independence in 1981. Published on Tuesday's and Friday's, The Amandala is . It was founded under the United Black Association of Belize in 1969, and remained even after the Association fell apart in 1974. The Amandala both created and subsidised radio station KREM FM, the first privately owned radio broadcaster in Belize. This broke the governments monopoly over the airwaves with their station Radio Belize. In the late 1990s Kremandala Ltd sought to expand their influence from the press and radio to television. There was much opposition to the application for a television license by Kremandala as both competition and citizens believed that it was an attempt to "corner the media market". However, after eventually being granted a license, KREM Television was formed.

The San Pedro Sun is another privately owned newspaper in Belize, owned by Tamara and Ron Sniffin, established in 1991. The San Pedro Sun is the only newspaper in the country that is considered under the bulk rate for mailing due to a wide range of foreign subscriptions. The San Pedro Sun mails to countries such as the USA, England and Canada. The San Pedro Sun also released their 'Visitor Guide', a useful and popular outlet for visitors to the country. Their online presence is informs a worldwide audience about the attractions and latest news of Belize. They also run a Twitter and Facebook account drawing attention to the country.

The Reporter is another Independent newspaper. It is one of the biggest Belizean newspapers. The Reporter was established in 1967 as a newsletter for the Belize Chamber of Commerce. Harry Lawrence has been running the paper since its conception. The paper is regarded as the countries second largest paper.

Channel 7 and Channel 5 are the countries largest privately owned television broadcasters. Channel 7 is owned by Tropical Vision Limited and has been on air since 1981 and producing its own news since 1994. Channel 5 is a subsidiary of Great Belize Productions (GBP), a company based in Belize that was founded in 1982. Initially GBP specialised in video production, namely in commercials and some motion pictures that were broadcast in Belize. However following the grant of a local television license in 1991, Channel 5 was established and GBP stopped producing content for outside sources. On June 6 2008 GBP was acquired by BTL. Before it was nationalised in 2009, the Board of BTL detached GBP through a layered ownership scheme that involves affiliated companies. Thus, Channel 5 remains privately owned today, however the former BTL board is being pursued by the government for their actions.


4. Regulation of the Media


Constitution

The Constitution of Belize safeguards the freedoms of press and speech, and these rights have, in general, been respected by the government. Media outlets are subject to libel laws, encouraging responsible and ethical journalism practices. However, within the generally free press of Belize, the Constitution does forbid individuals to question the validity of financial documents that public officials submit, both orally and in writing. This limitation on the media has not been used for prosecution in recent years, but if an individual is found guilty of violating this statute, he is subject to a fine of up to US$2,500, three years imprisonment, or both.

Broadcasting and Television Act

Most recently revised in 2000, the Belize Broadcasting and Television Act details the standards under which all broadcast media are regulated. First drafted in 1984, the Broadcasting and Television Act extends the notions of professional and responsible journalistic practices outlined in the Constitution, and applies them to broadcast media. The Act establishes the Belize Broadcasting Authority and the Board of Directors, equipping both entities with regulatory power. Additionally, the Act details the licensing procedure for radio and television stations, explaining how such licenses are obtained, maintained, and taken away.

Belize Broadcasting Authority

Created in 1984 under the Belize Broadcasting and Television Act, the Belize Broadcasting Authority (BBA) regulates all broadcasted media. The BBA has the right to prior restraint concerning certain types of broadcasts, such as ones concerning political issues, national security, or emergency situation. When previewing such broadcasts, the BBA holds the right to delete defamatory or libelous material.

Internet Regulation

As of 2012, the government of Belize does not regulate or restrict internet access or use in any way. Internet users have access to free expression of ideas and viewpoints. However, there is not currently a high level of public access to the internet in Belize due to a lack of infrastructure and high costs. As internet availability increases, regulation may be implemented.

Channel 5 and Regulation

In 2010, the Government of Belize demonstrated the extent of its regulatory power of the media in an incident with Channel 5. Produced by Great Belize Productions, Channel 5, like other major television stations, broadcast government press releases, interviews, and programs. In a statement released on 7 December, 2010, the Government of Belize severed formal relations with Channel 5 and Great Belize Productions. The government claimed that Channel 5 had violated its license terms under the Belize Broadcasting and Television Act, specifically the code of ethics broadcast media are expected to maintain. Additionally, Channel 5 refused to air a government-produced video program, further violating the Broadcasting and Television Act. This incident demonstrates the implementation of media regulation in Belize.

5. References


7 News Belize, accessed 14 August 2012, <http://www.7newsbelize.com/>

About the Amandala, accessed 8th August 2012, <http://www.amandala.com.bz/index.php?topmenuitem=About_Us>

About the Belize Times, accessed 6th August 2012, <http://www.belizetimes.bz.about-us/>

About the San Pedro Sun, accessed 8th August 2012, <http://www.sanpedrosun.com/about-the-san-pedro-sun-newspaper/>

Belize, accessed 5th August 2012, <http://www.pressreference.com/A-Be/Belize.html>

Belize Country Profile: Media, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1211472.stm#media>

Belize Internet Access, accessed 8th August 2012, <http://www.belmopancityonline.com/belize-internet-access.aspx>

Belize Media/Newspaper, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://www.abyznewslinks.com/belize.htm>

Broadcasting and Television Act 2000, accessed 4th August 2012, <http://www.wipo.int/wipolex/en/text.jsp?file_id=209530#LinkTarget_80>

The BTL Takeover - Litigation Enters New Phase, accessed 15 August 2012, <http://amandala.com.bz/news/the-btl-takeover-litigation-enters-new-phase/>

Channel 7 News, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://www.7newsbelize.com>

Constitution of Belize 2000, accessed 2nd August 2012, <http://www.belizelaw.org/belize_constitution01.pdf>

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Belize 2008, accessed 2nd August 2012, <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/100628.htm>

Current Information about Belize, accessed 8th August 2012, <http://www.belizeweb.com>

Development Policies and Identity Politics: Class and Collectivity in Belize, accessed 4th August 2012, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/646570>

Freedom House 2012, Belize, accessed 4th August 2012, <http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2012/belize>

Freedom of the Press -- Belize 2004, accessed 3rd August 2012, <http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,BLZ,,473450f3c,0.html>

The Guardian, Belize, accessed 9th August 2012, <http://www.rbot/net/The_Guardian_Belize>

History of Belize, accessed 6th August 2102, <http://www.lonelyplanet/com/belize/history>

LOVE FM, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://www.lovefm.com/>

Media in Belize 2007, accessed 6th August 2012, <http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Belize.aspx>

MORE FM, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://www.morefmbelize.com/>

Multilingual language use and television exposure and preferences: The case of Belize, accessed 5th August 2012, <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01463378909385548>

Nationmaster: Belize Media, accessed 5th August 2012, <http://www.nationmaster.com/country/bh-belize/med-media>

News 5, accessed 9th August 2012, <http://edition.channel5belize.com>

News and Media in Belize, accessed 10th August 2012, <http://www.belize.net/search/npl.cgi?search=CAT&Category=News%20and%20Media>

Newspapers in Belize, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://www.world-newspapers.com/belize.html>

Newspaper and News in Belize, accessed 8th August 2012, <http://www.guidetobelize.info/en/media/belize-media-newspaper-news-guide.shtml>

The Reporter, Belize, accessed 8th August 2012, <http://www.belize.com/reporter.html>

RSV Media Center, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/3394292>

The San Pedro Sun News, accessed 8th August 2012, <http://www.sanpedrosun.com>

UNESCO 2006, Belize, accessed 5th August 2012, <http://www.unesco-ci.org/ipdcprojects/sites/default/files/ipdc-project-descriptions/Belize%20-%20Strengthening%20of%20Ak'kutan%20FM%20-%20Radio%20for%20the%20Maya%20of%20Southern%20Belize.pdf>

UNHCR Freedom in the World 2012 - Belize, accessed 15 August 2012, <http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,BLZ,,4fd5ee13c,0.html>

World Development Indicators and Global Development Finance -- Australia, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://www.google.com.au/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:AUS&dl=en&hl=en&q=current+population+of+australia>

World Development Indicators and Global Development Finance -- Belize, accessed 7th August 2012, <http://www.google.com.au/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:BLZ&dl=en&hl=en&q=current+population+of+belize>

Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations, accessed 4th August 2012, <http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Belize.aspx>

The World Factbook, Publications, accessed 4th August 2012, <http://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bh.html>