This essentials of this commentary was
written since 14th December 2001 but I didn't record it until
January because I had dengue fever throughout most of the Christmas season, it
was originally written to tell one W.Griffith who wrote a ridiculous letter in
the Stabroek News where to get off, I decided to do it now because of a letter
I received from a fellow Guyanese living in Betsy Ground, East Canjie.
I receive quite a few letters weekly,
ladies and gentlemen, from all over the country telling me of all sorts of
corruption, incompetence, irregularities, nepotism, etc. I however refrain from
commenting on them since the information they contain is not definitive enough
to produce an accurate and fact filled comment and would rely heavily on rumor,
innuendo, unsubstantiated claims etc and I have stayed away from that type of
But this letter from the gentleman in
Canjie said and I quote "I must assure you that many persons who disliked you
for various reasons over the years now favor your new role, seemingly neglected
by the main opposition parties" the dislike the gentleman referred to was
clearly to do with the Vieira Black box, in the letter from W. Griffith
published in the Stabroek newspaper dated December 14th 2001, a
similar comment was made, so it is time to tell you the story of the black box,
it needs to be buried anyway.
In that letter Griffith
obviously a complete fool, if he exists, declares that television was in Guyana
many years before Vieira started his television station, since we used to
receive signals from Suriname, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Brazil etc, and that I
had said, that unless everyone accepts that I am the TV pioneer of Guyana I
will return my medal of service for pioneering Television in this country.
I would like to ask Mr.
Griffith the date I made that ridiculous statement, Let me put this plainly
ladies and gentlemen, some people do not understand subtleties, Mr. Griffith is
a liar, I never made any such statement. And I actually do not care. Installing
the first transmitter was a joke and was set up within 24 hours after its
arrival in Guyana. The dish took one and a half years to conceptualize,
research and to build, the Berbice expansion took three years, The Evening News
took 8 months to organise, format and put it on the air, those were the hardest
projects I ever did, not the transmitter.
Ladies and gentlemen I
now come to the black box, the only perceived black mark against me and which
is exploited from time to time by anyone who wishes to discredit me.
In 1982 I was the
Administrative Manager of Versailles Sugar Estate, I became fed up driving over
the bridge daily, to borrow Video tapes from friends and family, even then my
love for the TV tube knew no bounds and there were not enough tapes to satisfy
my insatiable appetite for this sort of entertainment.
After doing some research
helped by Mr. Michael Welch then General Manager of Telecoms, I decided that
there had to be some alternative, I approached the Guyana Telecommunications Corporation
and with the cooperation of Welch and Mr. Lambert Philadelphia I BORROWED a 36
foot Tropo dish which was not being used and set it up to receive US
programming. To the utter astonishment of everyone including me, it worked perfectly
and I started taping for my family and friends who were delighted that they no
longer had to pay to have tapes recorded and shipped from the US. I had no
interest whatsoever in becoming a television Broadcaster at that time.
One day I recorded some
major event at 6 am, I believe that it was the invasion of Grenada and sent it
to my father at Houston, by 10 am the same day Mr. Hamilton Green the then Vice
President for Communications so all of this fell within his portfolio, called
me, he had seen the tape and he wanted to know how I got it so quickly. He said
that he will be coming over the river shortly to do political work in the West
Bank and he will come and see this dish, I explained, I had used to receive the
When Hammie saw the 4-ton
monster dish with its 40 ton foundation required for receiving the signal he
decided that putting one at his house was out of the question and he asked me
how he could receive this signal. I explained that the only way was for me to
transmit it to him.
Now ladies and gentlemen
this is 1982 the declaration of Sophia was already made, the constitution was
already changed and the country was on a socialist path so BROADCASTING a US
based signal to everyone here was out of the question, especially with the US
advertising contained in it, since everyone here was lining up for everything,
even cooking oil.
I was then told by Hammie
that IF I can find a way to restrict the reception, to a wireless cable type
system, I could go ahead and transmit the signal, BUT I was encouraged to do
Ladies and gentlemen if
we had initiated an open broadcast in this country in 1982 to the general
public, Prime Minister Ptolomy Reid and the socialist PNC cabinet would have
shut it down the next day. Even after we started with this wireless cable
broadcast, the matter came up at every cabinet meeting for nearly a year until
President Forbes Burnham got fed up of the matter and granted not only me but
Rex Mc Kay permission to broadcast, but for that entire year after every
cabinet meeting, I expected a call telling me to shut it down and that it was
important to keep it restricted.
When Mc Kay came on the
air I was left with the black box. I had spent too much time and money setting
up the scrambling system to change it, so I was literally stuck between a rock
and a hard place. Trust me ladies and gentlemen you do not want to be left in
such a position.
attempt to secure his signal was not successful, I know that everyone thinks that
Mc Kay began broadcasting fully to the public but it is common knowledge among
us broadcasters that his attempt to secure his signal with the Jerrold decoder
was not successful and he decided to transmit it without security and I quote
him "to give something back to the people of the country" he told me so
personally several times, fortunately for me Rex did not broadcast 24 hours per
day at first, so we made some progress with subscriptions, by 1990 with Mr.
Hoyte's economic recovery program, the economy showed that it could support the
cost of television broadcasting through advertising, so the scrambling was
Now remember that Rex Mc
Kay was and is a wealthy man, the country's most successful attorney, so his
broadcast was not an economic venture for him at that time but I personally did
not have his resources so I had to recover my costs. Rex Mc Kay gave back
millions of dollars to the people of this country subsidizing his broadcast
from his own pocket for over eight years, something that the people of this
country have never really understood or given him the credit and the praise he
deserves for it.
When the production of
advertising finally reached critical mass and Rex could then recover some of
the money which he had subsidized his transmission with for all of those years,
others were allowed to come on the air and reap the benefit of his
philanthropy, and yes I was angry at being left in that ridiculous position and
said so many times but the direction of my anger was never understood, to be
the first, I HAD to agree to have a restricted broadcast. There will always be
cable systems which will only be available to those who can afford it.
After regulation is
introduced in Guyana, cable systems will inevitably materialize. There are
cable systems in Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, [which is government owned and which is wireless] I
don't think that there is a single Caribbean Island which does not have a cable system with multiple
channels. Wired and wireless. So there is nothing elitist about it.
Mr. Hamilton Green or
anyone who was in the PNC cabinet in 198/83 can confirm that every word I tell
you here is the truth. Vieira was only the instrument; the REAL pioneer of
television is Mr. Hamilton Green. He should get the medal. The battle was not
to get the signal on the air, that was the easy part, the real battle was to
handle the political fall out from doing so. Senior people at the US embassy in
1983 told me that what I was doing for US interest in this country far
outweighed what their own embassy here was doing, my medal should be for
restraint above and beyond the call of human nature, for being left up the
creek with that black box to the everlasting infamy of my name. Ladies and
gentlemen I am not a fool some people even think that I would have done much
better financially, had I embarked on some other type of business in 1982. I
believe that they may just be right.
So Griffith what is NOT up
for public debate is that the first television transmitter broadcasting a
signal on a daily basis to the public in Guyana as restricted as it was made to
be, for political reasons, was located at Versailles, West Bank, Demerara, from
a tower located in my yard with a signal from a dish which I BUILT, also
located there, and opened the way for all future broadcasts.