The appointment of former Independent Senator Helen Drayton raised many a brow among the media fraternity today, with opinion expressed that the new government appears intent on keeping its word of implementing policies that would prevent political interference at state-owned media house C TV.
Granted those policies have still to be drafted, reviewed, agreed upon and then implemented, but could this be the first step in that direction?
Since the emergence of C TV in 2005, commentators have long held that there was also interference at the now defunct Trinidad and Tobago Television, so when whisperings began to emerge as general talk among journalists as they met while on assignment, it was nothing new.
Fast-forward some years later prior to the 2010 general election, and journalists spoke of increasing interference but did not file formal complaints. However, things came to a head in 2011 when journalists at C TV had enough and wrote a detailed letter calling on Management to take a stand against the newsroom being used as a play toy.
The then People’s Partnership administration quickly dismissed the allegations saying there is no interference, but the journalists stood their ground and walked. Indeed newsroom staff have oft spoken about “directives” allegedly given by ministers to air stories in the newscast that would not portray the government negatively.
Radio talk-show personalities as well as television personalities would then be hired, earning large sums of money in order to disparage anyone attacking the government of the day, or to use their powers of misdirection. Now that the government has changed, will these personalities be kept on the air, or will they be slowly phased out to make way for the vision the government has articulated?
Some staff have suggested to Triniscene that one of the first to feel the effects of any changes is Next 99.1 due to underperformance compared to other urban radio stations, and inflated salaries among other issues. Talk City 91.1 is next due to what has been perceived as an out of control politcally-influenced talk radio station.
Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie has said there has to be a revamp once more of CNMG and the government will be looking at options such as privatisation, and even the BBC model. The BBC model, however, sees the entity funded by a television tax that goes toward the running of the station. Should this be the route, will citizens be willing to fork out more money to run an entity they don’t trust?
The competition question then comes into play. A state-run entity should never compete with private organisations since it can level resources in its arsenal a private organisation does not have access to.
It’s early days yet, but the question of what exactly is the plan of action regarding CNMG is an interesting one nonetheless, and one the country will look to when the national budget is presented on October 5th.
Could former independent senator, Helen Drayton, be the transformative force needed to nurse a bruised and battered CNMG back to health? We wait to see.