The Antigua and Barbuda Media: an Abridged Record

Primary source: Antigua’s Media: Now and Then by Milton Benjamin (published in Volume 13 Number 1, Spring 2007 of the CLR James Journal: A Review of Caribbean Ideas, a publication of the Caribbean Philosophical Association) CLRand (as a secondary source) Talking with Whom? A Report on the State of the Media in the Caribbean by Aggrey Brown and Roderick Sanatan published 1987 (noting then, grave concern re foreign content, media professionalism, and press freedom). A little additional help from internet resources like Wikipedia, the World Press Freedom Report, Freedom House, the Daily Observer, the Observer Court of Appeals docs, and Censorship: a World Encyclopedia (2002, Derek Jones); plus John A. Lent’s book Third World Mass Media and the Search for Modernity: The Case of Commonwealth Caribbean 1717-1976. These are arranged not as they appear in the respective publications but in an attempt to capture the chronology. Bolds and italics are mine. – JCH, site admin and Wadadli Pen founder; plus trained media practitioner, author, and freelance provider of writing, editing, and (written communication and literary) training services

“a tradition that dates back at least to the first third of the 19th century when newspapers were a salient force in advocating political change in Antigua. Back then, the written word in the form of newspapers and pamphlets were the primary means that activists used to galvanize public opinion to their cause.”

The Antigua Free Press, the first newspaper was introduced into Antigua by Benjamin Mekom (Benjamin Franklin’s nephew).”

One of the earliest newspaper editors and publishers was Henry Loving “born a slave probably in 1790 but was manumitted at the age of nine (9)…” – “Along with Nathaniel Hill he had founded The Weekly Register in 1814 to press their cause and argued in it that they (free coloreds) were Englishmen and should not be treated in an inferior manner.” – “Shortly after winning complete civil rights for the free colored (1832), Loving pressed for the same treatment to be extended to slaves but not all of the free colored were ready to back that project…In fact, two members of the Loving inspired Committee of Correspondence, David Cranston and Peter Walter, were so incensed with Loving for his position with regard to the slaves that they wrote to the planter’s newspaper, The Herald Gazette disassociating themselves from the Committee and from support of the abolition of slavery. The Herald Gazette had been instituted in 1831 especially to rail against the Loving and Hill Weekly Register. Because of the abolition controversy, the Weekly Register lost so many subscribers that Loving was compelled to give up its editorship in 1833 (to G. Hart, another free coloured). The Weekly Register continued to be published until 1839 when Loving ceased its publication.”

“It is noteworthy that there always seemed to have been at least one nonwhite newspaper editor during the post emancipation period…(Hart) also published the Antigua Almanac and Register 1843…the Antigua Observer was founded in 1843 and was being edited by A. B. Hill…The Antigua Times was established in 1851 by an American named Fred S. Jewett…It was purchased by Paul Horsford…in 1872…After Paul Horsford died in 1878, The Times was taken over by Messrs Macmillan and J. H. Hill, but it then closed down. The gap was filled by the Antigua Standard in 1874; and from the early 1890s until about 1908, was owned and edited by Joseph Theodore Thibou…by the 1890s, the Observer was owned and edited by still another former free coloured, Daniel W. Scarvillle….By 1909 The Antigua Standard had been sold to Allan Husband Nurse, a Barbadian who renamed it the Antigua Sun…The Sun closed in 1922…”

1931 – “Joseph A. N. Brown used his own money to inaugurate The Magnet newspaper…and hired Harold Wilson to be its editor.”
WINMP1312
1940The Progress newspaper “editor Edward Mathurin, a printer…” – advocated (sometimes unsuccessfully for) improvements in working conditions on sugar estates e.g. reduced work day and equal pay for women in the sugar estates, end to whipping on sugar estates, and end to share cropping.

The Antigua Star newspaper made its debut as the mouthpiece of the sugar and estates barons, who were, in effect, the ruling class in Antigua and Barbuda up to that time in the early 1940s. Mostly white and of European descent…”

“… radio (came) in the 1940s. Antigua and Barbuda was not to be left behind, though the number of sets was limited to individuals who could afford to purchase a set that could bring in stations that broadcast in the shortwave bands. These included the British Broadcasting Service and the Voice of America. These were the main outlets from which people got their information about what was happening in the world beyond them. Sometimes the cable services would post printed news items in specific locations so that interested individuals could go and find out what was going on in the region and beyond. But through it all, the local newspaper was the main focus of political debate.”

1944The Workers’ Voice “(A publication of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union) with Musgrave Edwards as its editor” started publication – “organizations that were engaged in politics accepted that to get their message out to a wide and increasingly sophisticated audience, they needed some kind of publication.” – other early editors included Rolston Williams, Novelle Richards (1948), George Walter (1958), and Milton Benjamin (1960); and McChesney George (A View from the Ampitheatre by Onlooker) was a contributor.

“Only with advocacy journalism as practiced in The Magnet, The Progress, and The Workers’ Voice…was the horrendous treatment of the underclasses begun to be addressed…”

“In 1956, Antigua got yet another political newspaper. Rohan Henry, a distinguished lawyer, put together a political party which he called the Antigua National Party (ANP). He launched a newspaper, The Anvil, to propagate the views of the ANP; the editor was Musgrave Edwards.”

Late 1960s, Henry’s next publishing venture was The Antigua Times (coinciding with his new Antigua People’s Party) – Bridget George Harris was the editor.

ABS TV…began telecasting in 1965 as ZAL-TV. ZAL-TV was owned by a private company then, and served Antigua on Channel 10…The station was run by an expatriate management and staff, and was affiliated with another television station in Bermuda…in the mid-1970s, because of severe financial problems, the television station was eventually bought by the Government of Antigua, and re-named ABS-TV.”

1995

Me, just back from University of the West Indies in 1995 and reporting on ABS TV – this was The Year in Review year-end broadcast.

The Outlet newspaper (founded 1968, edited by Leonard Tim Hector), (became) one of the most influential newspapers ever published in Antigua and Barbuda (associated with the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement)…The Outlet exposed many instances of corruption…” – “In its heyday Outlet claimed a circulation of around 5,000 copies, thus being the most widely read newspaper on Antigua. As of the early 1970s, Outlet and Standard (which appeared on irregular basis) were the sole opposition newspapers in the country…Exif JPEGDue to its criticisms, Outlet was often targeted (the offices were raided in the 1980s and the publication faced off against the government in court more than once, and in the 1990s its building was attacked by arsonists)… Hector died in 2002 and publication continued for a short time after his death.

“Not to be outdone, the fledgling Antigua Workers Union (which started in 1968) brought out its own organ to disseminate its views in the form of The Trumpet newspaper, stenciled sheets of paper, with a lawyer’s clerk, Theodore Dunning, as its initial editor.”

ETA-March 15th 2018: from John A. Lent’s Third World Mass Media and the Search for Modernity: The Case of Commonwealth Caribbean 1717-1976,  “Immediately after the Antigua elections of 1971, the new Walter government deported Dorcas White, editor of the Antigua Workers’ Voice. Very little reason was given for the sudden interest by the government in her lack of a work permit, but a number of Antiguans assumed that she was deported because of the editorials she wrote in The Voice and broadcast over ZDK radio…Another occasion when the Antigua government (JCH note: based on the year, this would have been the Bird government) used the denial of a work-permit renewal to suppress a journalist occurred in 1968. Television commentator Bobby Margetson was forced to leave the island for political broadcasts that he made (JCH note: according to the book the ‘offence’ was committed on ZAL-TV, later the state TV ABS).” -End Edit.

Cable Television, a privately-owned company, began operation in Antigua in the latter half of 1983.” (non-local, primarily American content)

(in the 1980s and early 1990s) the surviving papers were The Worker’s Voice, the Outlet, and the Nation’s Voice (out of the Government Information Unit) – Local radio in the 1980s was dominated by ABS Radio (government-owned and run)and  ZDK (privately owned, by Ivor Bird, son of Prime Minister V. C. Bird Sr. of the ruling Antigua Labour Party) – beyond that there were Caribbean Relay Station, gospel station Caribbean Radio Lighthouse (plus whatever regional stations we could pick up – like GEM which was then popular among teens- JCH).

“…The Daily Observer was founded in 1993 and it is now published from Monday to Saturday…As (co-founder) Winston Derrick disclosed…because he and (brother) Fergie (Samuel Derrick) had a desire to publish, and Winston owned a computer, both he and his brother started the Observer newspaper by fax. Now the grand daddy of current Antigua newspapers…”

Observer

Antiguanews
“In 1997, (American businessman) Allan Stanford established The Antigua Sun newspaper and subsequently followed it with the sister publication the Sun Weekend, each in color.” (Both are now defunct and Mr. Stanford is a federal prisoner in the US)

Observer Radio burst on the scene in the year 2001.” – “Journalism in Antigua and Barbuda has not been the same since then. That decision freed up the radio airwaves once and for all.”

“Prior to the coming of Observer Radio the airwaves in Antigua were dominated by the Government broadcast services in radio and television (i.e. ABS, GIS), and by the private radio and television services (i.e. Cable TV, the lone cable TV service and Grenville Radio/ZDK) owned by the Bird family, the family which dominated politics in Antigua and Barbuda for almost half a century…”

When Observer Radio first started broadcasting “the editor and publisher were arrested for operating a radio station without a license” (note: the paper, like the Outlet, and subsequently the radio station has also been sued multiple times by government and/or government ministers).

“On September 1 1996, the appellant, without the requisite license, commenced broadcasting over a telecommunications media in Antigua called Observer Radio. On the second day of the broadcast, the police arrived with a search warrant…and seized various pieces of broadcasting equipment.” – per Observer court of Appeals docs – a business license and a telecommunications license had been sought; the former granted while the latter dragged for more than a year. Observer won Privy Council appeal related to this case in 2000.

“It’s a truism that Observer Radio would not exist but for the fact that the Observer Group had to go through a lengthy and expensive court process to get a license to broadcast, because their original application for a license to set up a radio station was denied them by the government …It was the Privy Council in London, Antigua and Barbuda’s court of last resort that compelled the Government of Antigua and Barbuda to grant the license to the Observer Group.”

“The Observer Group also maintains a sister radio station (Hitz FM) …(which unlike the Observer Radio talk format) plays mainly popular music…”

“…the first flagrantly political radio station, Crusader Radio, opened up its channels in the year 2004. Crusader began broadcasting explicitly on behalf of the United Progressive Party (UPP), the opposition party.” UPP (whose previous battles with the ruling government for access to ABS TV/radio are also a matter of public record) became the ruling government for two terms after 2004.

The opening up of the airwaves, traceable to the Observer Radio case, a faultline in Antiguan and Barbudan media, is credited with expanding the talk radio format and shaking up the political landscape.

On the subject of press freedom, Independent watchdog group Freedom House gives Antigua and Barbuda (up to 2017) a 34/100 rating, dubbing it “partly free”. And in a November 3rd Daily Observer article, the editor writes, “Antigua and Barbuda is indeed a peaceful place, but it is not immune to the anti-media wave that is flooding the world…”, citing name calling, threats of physical violence, online trolling, financial pressure, and property damage as some of the hurdles faced by some of its media workers.

Post-note (from memory so forgive any oversights/errors, please): Clearly many of the publications (several like the Sentinel in the late 1980s/early 90s (?) – started by Vere Bird Jr., News Pages Antigua in the 2000s edited by Timothy Payne, and others, as well as magazines like Woman’s Place 1990s (?) edited by Iva Williams David, Business Focus Antiguapage_1 and Essential magazine edited by D. Gisele Isaac, and others, and online publications like the Antigua and Barbuda News Source i.e. sourceAB.com – both Source and Essential in the late 1990s/early 2000s are publications I was involved in starting along with other enterprising media people – have come and gone. at this writing, there are only two daily papers, The Daily Observer and Caribbean Times (ETA – March 16th 2018) were our current dailies but Caribbean Times seems to have ceased publication and the Daily Observer is down to three times a week as a print publication and remains a daily onlinecaribbean-times-65th-issueboth with online components, as well as purely online publications Antigua Chronicle and Antigua Newsroom (sidebar: it is of some concern that no masthead is easily found for these online publications indicating, as print would have to, who the editors and publishers are). There are also several annual tourism publications. Radio is much more populated with the likes of RedHot, Vybz, Nice FM, and others – all also online – lots of music but post-the launch of Observer Radio lots more talk than ever before, lots more freedom to talk – and consequently a rise in loose talk; and while local TV is still primarily ABS, there’s been marginally more local (film and TV) content (via independent producers such as HAMA – see here for more on film content) but also an explosion of foreign content thanks to cable offerings from Flow TV and CTV; and, of course, there’s the endless internet (touristic, entertainment, news, and otherwise) landscape where new content creators stay creating, though there remains a need for more grounded, well-sourced, verifiable research, documentation, and accessibility (to said research and documentation) of all areas of life in Antigua and Barbuda (as we try to do with literary arts here on this site).

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (credit). If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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