Mr Lester Spaulding did more than his fair share

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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The media landscape in Jamaica has changed profoundly over the last 50 years in tandem with changes in global media driven by new dramatic developments in technology, ownership structures, competition and consumer taste.

Many important individuals have contributed and influenced the tectonic changes in media in Jamaica. Among the towering figures in the institutional transitions and technological transformation was Mr Lester Spaulding, who passed away on Friday, aged 76.

We won't find too many people who would disagree that Mr Spaulding became synonymous with Radio Jamaica Limited (RJR) over the last four decades, beginning in 1978 when he became the first native managing director of the newly restructured and Jamaicanised RJR.

As chief accountant, Mr Spaulding had kept the ship steady and, when the British owners decided to pull out, the then Michael Manley Government sold the company to a broad band of Jamaican organisations including trade unions, credit unions, co-operatives, farmers, teachers and, of course, employees.

The man chosen to lead that complex web of sometimes competing interests was Joseph Aloysius Lester Spaulding, under the chairmanship of the late Mr Peter Abrahams, originally of South Africa, whom he succeeded as chairman in April 1994.

Mr Spaulding also served as chairman and trustee for the group pension scheme and chairman and director of Multi-Media Jamaica Limited, a subsidiary of Radio Jamaica Ltd.

While at RJR, his media influence stretched to include wider service beyond Jamaica to the region, leaving his mark on institutions such as the Caribbean News Agency, the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, and the Caribbean Media Corporation.

During that time, as well, he shared his considerable expertise by serving on the board of directors on a slew of private companies and public institutions, including LASCO Manufacturing; LASCO Distributors; Peace and Love in Schools; the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Crime Prevention Fund (Crime Stop); the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons; Guardsman Communications; the Private Security Regulations Authority; Jamaica National Money Services; the Scottish Masonic Association; the St Andrew Justice of the Peace and Lay Magistrates' Association; the National Crime Prevention Fund; Clearchannel Communications Limited; the Gleaner/Voice Group in London, and Salada Foods Jamaica.

On the verge of retirement, Mr Spaulding had one more big project in him — the unexpected acquisition of the then 182-year-old Gleaner newspaper which had remained virtually unchallenged until the appearance of the Gordon “Butch” Stewart-owned Jamaica Observer.

Out of that merger came the RJRGleaner Communications Group and 1834 Investments Limited (formerly The Gleaner Company) on July 5, 2016. That was to be his last hurrah, as illness slowly took its toll.

For a contribution which was more than one man's share of national responsibility, Mr Spaulding was honoured with the insignia of the Commander of the Order of Distinction (CD) by the Government of Jamaica. His service will be long remembered.

The Jamaica Observer joins the media fraternity, his friends, and a grateful nation in extending condolence to his wife, children, other family members, and the RJRGleaner Communications Group.




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