Cold water poured on radio row
A broadcast on the Hamilton waterfront dispute that failed to air on Hott 107.5 was pulled because radio station owner Glenn Blakeney was worried about potential legal issues and a clash with a planned discussion on the Budget.
Mr Blakeney, chairman of Inter-Island Communications and a retired former Progressive Labour Party MP, reacted after youth activist Eron Hill posted on Facebook that he had been warned off talking about the overhaul of the Hamilton waterfront.
Mr Blakeney said he was concerned at the potential for defamatory comments to make it on to the airwaves.
“I said I could not afford to be sued and, based on what I had read, I was a bit concerned,” Mr Blakeney said.
“I maintained it would be more appropriate to have focused to some degree on the Budget from the young people's perspective.
“It's a precedent we have set for Sunday evening over the past several years.”
He added: “When you supersede the national issue with a private issue, then we have a problem. I would venture to say the entire country was more interested in the Budget and did not want a private matter to distract from a bigger national matter.”
Mr Blakeney was also keen to highlight that Hott 107.5 had never steered clear of controversial topics while he has been in charge.
He pointed out that controversial content on talk shows had ranged from the Pathways to Status row to the fallout from protests over the airport redevelopment deal in December 2016, when protesters were pepper-sprayed.
The scheduled Sunday interview hosted by the youth group Generation Next would have included Michael MacLean, head of Allied Development Partners Ltd, speaking on his would-be overhaul of the Hamilton waterfront.
That deal, in which a 262-year lease was settled with the Corporation of Hamilton in December 2012, was scuppered after changes to the Municipalities Act were passed in October 2013.
The changes allowed the legislature to overturn any agreements made by the corporation after January 1, 2012.
The decision to override the agreement, made by the One Bermuda Alliance government, was criticised by the PLP.
Mr Hill said the PLP had changed direction since its return to government and had ignored appeals from Mr MacLean to Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, as well as to David Burt, the Premier.
Mr Blakeney said his company had given more airtime to the waterfront dispute than “any other media entity, bar none” and took exception to calls for listeners to ring during Mr Burt's appearance on Orders of the Day with Kim Swan to challenge his handling of the waterfront issue.
Although Mr Blakeney said he offered to arrange “a future, mutually convenient time to have the discussion”, Generation Next withdrew its show from Hott 107.5.
He added: “I wish them well. They're bright young people with a lot to offer.
Mr Hill wrote on Facebook that he had been told that the two-hour show, which would have included former City of Hamilton councillor Keith Davis, was seen to “not be in the interest of the station”.
He added he was “extremely disappointed by this most unfortunate turn of events”.
He wrote that the station was in a “difficult and delicate position”, and that Generation Next did not want to jeopardise “any impending financial opportunities” with the Bermuda Government.