Our TV, our culture?

Still image taken from the video “Lucy” by Destra Garcia; 2015; Bakanation; EFP Productions

For the first time as far as I can remember, the annual Carnival Saturday Junior Parade of the bands (or more affectionately known as ‘Kiddies’ Carnival’) was not broadcast on any local television station.

Just hours before, state-owned CNMG Television failed to show the advertised ‘Big Friday’, leaving viewers to wonder whether some unforeseen major technical difficulty caused the blackout of the finals of the King and Queen of Carnival.

Like many persons of my generation, I grew up watching these programmes on the then lone television station, TTT. Today, there are at least twelve television stations serving the Trinidad and Tobago market, among them two state-run entities: CNMG and Our4 Tv.

When Gayelle — The Channel signed-on in 2004, I applauded the effort to offer a dedicated channel to showcase exclusively local content. Unfortunately, economic pressures and the reality that local business has not traditionally invested heavily in local programming has curtailed progress in this area.

CNMG’s CEO Ken Ali issued a press release after the station’s poor quality Dimanche Gras broadcast early Carnival Monday, citing a lack of rights and third-party contractors for the poor Carnival coverage.

This of course begs the question, how could a state-run television station fail to obtain broadcast rights for a major national cultural event?

As Carnival becomes more and more commercialized, it is increasingly difficult to find true creativity among the bevy of mass-produced Chinese bikinis and beads. The King and Queen of Carnival and the Junior Parade of the Bands are probably the only places left to find such talent.

And even though CNMG did broadcast the Parade of the Bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, the broadcast seemed from a bygone era, with bad camera angles, inaccurate information and sound problems.

I would have thought that the station would have harnessed social media, created a hash-tag for viewers to interact with the commentary team by reading comments on the air, sharing photos from members of the public throughout the country and giving updates on the locations of bands along the main parade route.

Instead we (and I say “we” since I am a citizen and hence an owner of both CNMG and TV4) adopt a last-minute anything/anyhow attitude to Carnival, and fail to demand better from the Government or from the business community.

Our4 brought live coverage of Carnival coverage from Carapichaima and San Fernando on Monday and Tuesday, which was refreshing and gave a glimmer of hope that perhaps we can get it right. Gayelle too should be applauded for broadcasting the Red Cross Kiddies’ Carnival show, which was held a week before the main event. Other stations brought coverage of the fetes, the Soca Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch competitions, and other commercially viable events.

But this does not excuse the state’s principal television station — which will no doubt be used as a political and propaganda machine as the 2015 general election approaches — from getting it right.

Carnival is evolving, but it is important that we make our voices heard before all traditional aspects of the mas are lost forever.

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