MT 60 Years Ago — 3rd Year No 92 — Friday 11th May 1956
That stinking air of closed shop hovering over the Mauritius Broadcasting Service cannot but do harm to it — By Somduth Bhuckory
Last Tuesday the report of the Mauritius Broadcasting Service for the year 1955 was laid on the Council table by the Financial Secretary. In seven and a half of the usual foolscap pages, the Manager, Mr Cyril de Chazal, has condensed quite a lot of information. The report, dated the 7th February 1956, has come to light on the 8th of May. It makes us wonder why it was not published earlier.
We are told in the report that on the 1st July 1954, the MBS was given the status of a government department. That happened exactly ten years after its inception. During those ten years the MBS had functioned first as a branch of the Information or Public Relations Office and later, in June 1951, it became an autonomous section of the Central Administration.
The MBS is today a government department in fact but it appears to be a body which has yet to achieve that status. Is it because the radio station is at Forest Side that it seems to have become the monopoly of people of Forest Side and its neighbourhood? That stinking air of closed shop hovering over the MBS cannot but do harm to it.
The aim of the MBS, we gather, is to inform, to educate and to entertain its listeners. To this end, it relies 85% of the time on commercial records and transcriptions. Only 15% of the programmes is “live”.
After informing, educating and entertaining for a decade, the MBS complains that in this island there are practically no professional artistes and script writers. We should like to know the real cause for this. Is it because the talent scouts confine their search to a restricted sphere? Or is it because sufficient encouragement is not given?
And the report says that the MBS avoids controversial matters. Oh, how uncontroversial is PR! Remember the famous talks?
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The recurrent expenditure of the MBS during the financial year ending in June was Rs 260,523. The service became self-supporting last year. It even left a surplus of Rs 37,510 out of a revenue of Rs 308,033 derived from the sale of wireless licences. For every hour of broadcasting time approximately Rs 87 were spent.
The MBS had 50 permanent and 8 part-time employees.
Let us now see to what use the money of the licence holders and the energies of the employees have been put.
We find that during 1955, the MBS was on the air for an average of 57 hours 30 minutes per week as follows:
General Programme 43 hours
Indo-Mauritian Programme 10 hours 30 mins
Sino-Mauritian Programme 2 hours 15 mins
KI-Swahili Programme 30 mins
Schools Broadcasts 1 hour 15 mins
It can be said that the ratio of the times devoted to the General, Indian and Chinese population is approximately 20:5:1.
We shall now quote the figures of our population as they were on 31st December 1954 to establish a ratio between the three groups:
General population 157,634
Indo-Mauritian population 362,125
Sino-Mauritian population 19,159
Here the ratio is approximately 8 : 18 : 1.
Do not the figures speak for themselves!
On December 31st, 21,103 Mauritian homes were provided with radio sets. With this figure, it has been calculated that about 10% of the population are now able to listen to the local programmes. This percentage does not include, of course, those listeners on whom neighbours quite often inflict cruelly their blaring fare.
The report does not divide into three groups the 21,103 Mauritian homes with the radio sets. Would the grouping have revealed something worth hiding?
* * *
We have been told of what items the general programmes are made up. An analysis of the items reveals to what extent local matters are neglected. To begin with, there is no local news, and one of the three aims of the M.B.S. is to inform! In its puritanical obsession of keeping aloof from controversial matters, the M.B.S. is simply deaf and dumb as regards local problems. Is not the B.B.C. an official organisation? Does that prevent it from presenting thought-provoking talks and discussions?
Dealing with the outside broadcasts, the report says: “As in previous years, practically every single event of political, sporting or artistic significance was covered.”
What were, in fact, the political events covered by the M.B.S.? Did not the Manager’s pen tremble while he wrote political? Those political events must have been uncontroversial, we suppose. What a paradox: Politics and no controversy!
We learn that the mail of the M.B.S. has been reduced by 50%. This reduction is ascribed to the fact that “the General Post Office started strictly enforcing regulations on the correct size and adequate stamping of letters going through the post”. What about the ready-made request programmes? We think that many listeners must have found it futile to choose records from records already chosen by the studio. Where on earth, apart from Mauritius, do they have such request programmes? Is it really impossible to play the records which listeners wish to hear?
A list is given of the names of some of the distinguished visitors who broad-cast from the M.B.S. in 1955. The M.B.S. must be proud not to present the name of our distinguished visitor, Mr Fenner Brockway M.P. And we note that the M.B.S. has not disgraced itself in welcoming any non-European.
And this brings us to the question of segregation at the M.B.S.
The M.B.S. is divided into three sectors — not strictly linguistic but racial. What is practised openly on the land of South Africa is also in existence in another form on the air in Mauritius — and that in a department which is a government department.
We are sorry to cut our commentaries short today for want of… space. The rest of the report, including the Indo-Mauritian programme, will accordingly be reviewed next Friday.
This is M.T. calling. We invite our readers to join us at the same time next week at the same column.
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