He is not Mayor of a Council. The City Council is the body through which he works, and consists of elected citizens. So there is no such phenomenon as ‘Mayor of Freetown City Council’. Nor is there anything like Albert Academy Secondary School since an Academy is a school.
So many wrong notions, definitions and labels are in circulation in our country now that they risk being integrated into formal usage. If we are using English names and titles of English origin then we should make an effort to stick to their traditional use and sense.
Sometimes words are confused as in the case of ‘carton’ and ‘cartoon’ to the extent that you hear even well educated people referring to ‘cartoons’ of beer and even printing the expression in official papers when what they mean is ‘cartons of beer’.
A cartoon is a humorous sketch or drawing while a carton is a large cardboard box. Both words are pronounced the same way in Krio, and there is no problem, just as we say boss for boss, bus, burst. But in English there is a big problem because they are all pronounced differently. With ‘carton’, the stress is on the ‘car’ while with ‘cartoon’ it falls on the ‘toon’
How can the death occur of the late Mr. So and So? If he is ‘late’, then he certainly cannot die again. It was a living man who died, not a late man!
When ignorant or semi-literate people make statements in poor English, is there no-one in a station like Radio Democracy who can do some discreet editing in the interests of standards? Do they have to read rubbish? How about ‘The Sesay and Macauley families announces’?
Our radio stations are vibrant and vocal, as they should be, and it is good to hear so many new ones adding their voices. But what have they to offer that will save us from the prevailing mediocrity of those already in existence? Their content, on the whole, leaves much to be desired: talk shows galore, phone-ins, interminable obituaries (albeit a distressing necessity), news, notices, updates and commentaries, discussions, interviews and religious sessions all of which have their advantages and appeal to different sections of the society. But what about musical performances? plays? comedy shows ,? nature programmes?
Something for quiet, pleasurable listening when you are tired, or something with jokes to make you laugh? No such luck!
The obituaries are most fascinating, the principle being ‘the more names the merrier’, as well as extraneous and cosmetic details such as where the survivors work, their professional standing, where they are currently, in Tokyo or Timbuktu, not forgetting the many friends and relations not fortunate enough to be mentioned by name, who are all ‘very very important’! And Mr. Otis has a way of stressing the ‘very’s’ so that you can’t miss them, which must be a source of great comfort to the neglected mourners. When you send in your script with ‘May she rest in peace’, he undertakes to add ‘perfect’ before ‘peace’, and enunciates the words with relish in a sinking voice that makes him sound as if he I seeking that same peace for himself right now! Would it not be more helpful to spot blatant English mistakes and touch them up as he goes along?
All the extra words and names are of course in the interests of fundraising for the station. Content can be absolute piffle as long as air time is paid for. There appears to be no need to check anything by acceptable criteria. No staff is allocated to assess the quality of what is broadcast and there are no musical directors or advisers. In any case, the staff is so badly paid that it is no wonder that they cannot instinctively react to common grammatical errors. The whole outlook on our broadcasting system with the exception of UN Radio and CTN is really weird.
A prospective newsreader was successfully interviewed recently by the SLBS and offered an appointment for reading 6 evenings a week on a stipend of Le25,000 (twenty-five thousand Leones) per month! Amazing! Ludicrous? Scandalous! It was not enough to pay his fares to and from the studio for 2 weeks. So how can they recruit good people and raise standards? They would need to pay about Le150,000 (one hundred and fifty thousand) per week i.e. Le25,000 per day to cover transport as well and make the effort worth while.
For the kind of expertise required by a National Broadcasting Service, this would not be asking too much. These are the people whose voices tell the world who we are. Otherwise, there can be no change in the lamentable standards we tolerate at the moment – the perpetual chit-chat – as if that were all broadcasting was about. A massive reversal of values and payment structures is called for from all who plan and implement budgets for government institutions and parastatals. The SLBS will not survive as a National Radio Station as it obviously cannot look after itself financially.
It misses so many opportunities to take advantage of good programmes, performances by local music groups, jazz bands and soloists who can give recitals. Such broadcasts would give pleasure to thousands of people who cannot afford to get to the British Council or the Lagoonda etc. Of course, the performers would require a fee which national stations should be in a position to provide, and money should be spent on the training of broadcasters.
Our 2 main broadcasting institutions seem to be mere instruments for information and, in bad times, propaganda, with almost a complete blackout on entertainment, which is sad, to say the least. Some of us cannot get the SLBS, try as we will, because of the area in Freetown where we live. So their transmitting facilities also need to be improved.
By Lulu Wright