State-owned media house, Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) is to be succeeded by a revamped Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT). This was revealed by the Minister of Public Administration and Communications, Maxie Cuffie, who said Cabinet took the decision at its weekly meeting at the Diplomatic Centre in St. Ann’s on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference this morning at the NALIS Building in Port-of-Spain to give further details on Cabinet’s decision, Cuffie said, based on a media survey conducted in 2014, CTV had five to six per cent market shares and radio stations 91.1 Talk City and 99.1 Next FM both had less than one per cent audience. He said, “Commercial revenue had fluctuated between 30 and 33 million over the years 2011 to 2015. Operational costs had steadily increased. A major element has been starting cost that ranged from 18.1 million in 2011 to 26.3 million in 2015.” He added that the media house’s expenses have increased every year from TT $44 million in 2011 to TT $56 million in 2015. “As a result, subventions have also increased from ten million in 2012 to 23 million in 2015,” he said.
Cuffie lamented that CNMG never achieved commercial success neither success in growing its market shares. The one “bright spot”, according to Cuffie, was radio station Sweet 100 FM, which maintained market shares and was “very competitive” in the radio markets. He said Sweet 100 FM will not be interfered with and will continue operations. Though 99.1 FM and 91.1. FM will be shut down, they, as well as CNMG property, will not be sold.
He said the basis of reverting to TTT as a “public service medium” is the fact that there was a great attachment to the brand TTT; an attachment that was never achieved by the brand CNMG. He said, “There was always a problem with the name CNMG, people never bought into it, and the consultations proved that.” He said TT is “devoted to fulfilling the mandate of allowing filming, editing and broadcasting of local content, government information and news.” Though TTT will have a bias towards local content, Cuffie said there would be need for foreign content to “have some kind of appeal”, but there is interest in TT citizens to see local content from local producers. He also said that the programming on TTT will promote diversity, local and Caribbean history and will “fill the gap left by other commercial producers in the market.” He said TTT is “still on the books” and had the brand identity that was able to “translate the public service medium objective.” He said the reversion back to TTT will foster growth in the local creative sector.
According to Cuffie, the revamped TTT will absorb the assets of CNMG and Government Information Services Limited (GISL) and will be funded by the state as well as “donors, contributors and partly by commercial operations.” He said that a board will be appointed by the Ministry of Finance to “wind-up operations” at CNMG and subsequent decisions will be made to service the required staff of TTT. He added that though TTT will possess a “news product”, it will not seek to “compete with TV6 or CNC3.”
In a press release this evening, the Filmmakers Collaborative of Trinidad and Tobago (FILMCO), said they “welcome” the announcement to revive TTT and such an initiative will “boost our sense of national identity and pride, create intellectual and creative capital and social awareness.” They added, “FILMCO advocates for a return to the programming values which put our people on display and at the centre of our national television station, so we are fully supportive of a national station that schedules local and regional programming.” However, FILMCO stated there needs to be great change in “the existing management team to one that has a clearer understanding” of local and international production styles and an open mind for public broadcasting. “The combined audio visual archives of TTT, GISL and CNMG must be seen as a financial and historical asset and treated accordingly, with dedicated librarians to catalogue, digitise and license the material,” they said.
Former Head of News and Current Affairs at TTT, Jones P. Madeira, said TTT was “more than a brand” and it represented a “golden” era in broadcasting. He added that TTT was a success because of the “good people” and “dedicated professionals” that were a part of it. He said the reviving of TTT sounds good as a “philosophy” but he is unsure if it will “resonate” with current generations. Asked whether the forthcoming version of TTT can match up to its senior, Madeira said it can “if they are willing to put in the investment.”