(CNS): Radio Cayman has confirmed that the government received almost 3,000 free advertisements on the publicly-owned station between early October and the end of December. Responding to a freedom of information request from Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller, the information manager said the station broadcast the public service announcements on behalf of the tourism ministry for free as it is part of its mandate to provide government ministries and departments with PSAs as outputs. The records show that if government had been required to pay, it would have run to more than $57,000.
While Radio Cayman is government owned, it is funded by the public purse. With these advertisements plus those in the print press and on television, as well as with a local PR firm, the current administration spent more than $100,000 last year on promoting the project that has divided the community.
Miller, who made the FOI request, said he spent $600 of his own cash on just a handful of announcements on Radio Cayman promoting a series of meetings the opposition organised across Grand Cayman to challenge the misleading information that government has persistently used public cash to promote.
Government’s continued claims that a referendum equates to a ‘no’ vote for the project, undermining democratic principles and the constitutional right to a people-initiated national ballot, has raised questions as to whether its promotion of the port is political rather than advisory.
Radio Cayman explained that its only requirement for PSAs is for them to generally stay within 30 seconds and that the station has the flexibility to remove them from certain slots when the space is needed for paying customers. The station also said that there should be no more than four productions per month and it limits the broadcasts to ten per day on Radio Cayman, though more can be placed on Breeze.
“Radio Cayman should have a balanced position; we should be entitled to the same number of ads as PSAs,” the opposition leader said. “What we heard on Radio Cayman were not informational PSAs but promotional adverts pushing the port project. I was flabbergasted when I learned that government did not have to pay for these thousands of adverts repeating the same promotional message.”
The Cruise Port Referendum campaign, which is a grass-roots organisation that is pushing for a people-initiated referendum funded only by private sector donations and the work of volunteers, said that all of the promotion or advertising it has done has had to be paid for from their own funds and that Radio Cayman has not offered any free air time to them to promote the referendum, even when the government was using public cash to undermine it.
While they have been able to go on the government radio’s talk shows to get their message out, there have been no free PSAs about the people’s petition.