We welcome the announcement of a resolution to the long-lingering issue of the fate of State-owned broadcaster Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG).
The Cabinet’s decision, announced by Minister of Public Administration and Communications Maxie Cuffie last Thursday, to close loss-making CNMG and resurrect the Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) brand, finally brings to a close a chapter that has been dragging for far too long. And at the taxpayer’s expense.
However, there must be greater clarity on the fate of the 112 employees and 37 freelancers at CNMG. While the minister said, all would be free to apply for jobs at TTT, it was not clear whether all would be guaranteed a place in the re-vamped entity.
On the one hand, the new entity should be free to attract the best possible expertise on the market. On the other hand, the State cannot cavalierly dismiss the wealth of experience and institutional memory embodied by long-standing employees.
What is needed most, however, is a deep respect for the women and men who have worked at this entity and whose futures are now all in doubt. Communication is the key in this process and the State must always be mindful of the need to include all relevant stakeholders.
Aside for the potential for job losses, few will be sad to see CNMG go. In the entity’s long history, there is little which stands out in terms of its contribution to cultural development.
The rationale of the Patrick Manning-led Cabinet in closing TTT and opening CNMG years ago was to boost local content. Sadly, that dream is yet to become a reality. Local productions remain trapped in a quagmire in which they have difficulty accessing financing, true talent and key resources.
While we have seen a handful of competent local films over the years – and indeed we enjoy annually a well-programmed Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival – the fact remains that local productions are largely products of a small coterie of individuals.
With few exceptions, they lack strong aesthetic visions, sensitivity for our diversity, and strong stories that do justice to the beauty and complexity of us as a people.
Maybe things are about to change. Perhaps the next generation of film-makers will be able to count on the revamped TTT as a showcase for their genuine talent, as opposed to a window display for amateurish producers.
The State cannot rely on the revival of brand TTT alone. It must also back the station in a way that results in a true boost to local productivity. Far more meaningful than a new name is a host of accessible production facilities, including a readily available archive of stock footage. Otherwise the new TTT might simply go the way of experiments like Gayelle.
That said, it is clear the revival of the TTT brand is potentially a great move given international trends.
There is a growing vogue for the vintage. TTT comes from a time and place that makes it prime to resonate on a level that connects it with older viewers and younger ones.
It must also be remembered that a key aspect of TTT’s original programming was its Caribbean-wide vision, as well as its pioneering role in the broadcast of Carnival and Parliament sittings. There is a lot of material on which the new entity can build.
The resurrected TTT will not be a success, however, unless the State finds a way to generate greater revenue. That requires an overall increase in television viewership – a true challenge in the Netflix age – and a higher quality of content.
CNMG’s closure and TTT’s second coming are only one side of the equation.