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Poor TV Coverage Makes Trinidad & Tobago Carnival Lovers Feel They Missed Out

A portrayal in the 2015 Kings and Queens Carnival competition in Trinidad and Tobago. Photo by Quinten Questel, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

A portrayal in the 2015 Kings and Queens Carnival competition in Trinidad and Tobago. Photo by Quinten Questel, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

2015 Carnival celebrations have come to an end in Trinidad and Tobago, but for many who could not not participate in the spectacle, substandard coverage by local television stations left many viewers disappointed.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival distinguishes itself from other pre-Lenten Carnival celebrations around the world, with unique events such as the King and Queen of Carnival, the Junior Parade of the Bands and miscellaneous parties (or fetes), cultural showcases and musical concerts leading up to the main event on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

These events are usually broadcast live on national television, but this year's coverage seemed to be a departure from that tradition. Social media was abuzz on Saturday morning, with the realization that both the King and Queen competition and the Junior Parade of the Bands were not covered by either of the state's two television stations.

Masqueraders at the 2015 Junior Parade of the Bands, Trinidad & Tobago Carnival. Photo by Quinten Questel, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Masqueraders at the 2015 Junior Parade of the Bands, Trinidad & Tobago Carnival. Photo by Quinten Questel, used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

The criticism continued on Sunday night, as viewers expressed their disgust at the quality of the broadcast for the annual Dimanche Gras show.

The outcry prompted state-owned Caribbean New Media Group to issue a press release explaining themselves, which was posted to its official Facebook page on Carnival Monday:

Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) wishes to make the following statement with respect to broadcast coverage of the 2015 Carnival celebrations.

· CNMG did not have broadcast rights for coverage of the Carnival Kings and Queens Competition last Friday night.

· Despite paying National Carnival Commission (NCC) for broadcast rights for live coverage of Dimanche Gras competition on Sunday night and having firm contractual arrangements, CNMG was not afforded the opportunity to properly install equipment to ensure the quality broadcast for which we are known. CNMG was asked to install a camera behind a large pillar, contrary to broadcast standards. All other video and audio had to be obtained from a contractor retained by NCC. This compromised the broadcast product.

· Up to the time of the issuance of this statement, CNMG has obtained limited accreditation from NCC and the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) for our professionals to work at Queen’s Park Savannah.

· Repeated efforts to have these breaches of contractual arrangements addressed by senior officials of NCC and NCBA have failed.

· CNMG has not been granted preferred camera positions at Queen’s Park Savannah for broadcast of the Parade of the Bands competition. This will impede the quality of the broadcasts.

· CNMG does not have rights for internet streaming of the Parade of the Bands competition on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, despite efforts to obtain such for the benefit of our international audience.

· In spite of these challenges, CNMG is proud to be the major broadcaster of the events of Carnival 2015, with such coverage including national and regional events, popular parties and in-studio programmes.

· CNMG has enjoyed tremendous working relationships with Pan Trinbago and Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), the results of which were the quality and expanded show broadcasts and programmes we were able to afford our viewers and listeners.

The statement however, did not appease anyone; in fact, it drew even more ire from netizens. Aldric-George Bailey commented on Facebook:

As a camera operator, who is Trini and based in foreign… this is the saddest news ever… Not to mention that I am the son and nephew of one the great Carnival families… 

I see things differently I suppose, since I push and promote both the island and the culture as much as I can, however, when the stakeholders play games with the meat of the country, it leaves me sick to the stomach that this goes on… 

As a broadcaster (and a national one at that) you should be heartbroken to have to make this release. […]

We really should be taking a page from […] Barbados’ book and REALLY MARKET what we have… 

Because, at the expense of everything we do as a nation, (crime and all) when de oil done, it is all we really have… […]

Meanwhile, Janice Lawrence-Clarke noted:

Somebody, please explain to me, objectively, how does a National Media Company NOT get the rights to broadcast a National Event??? Seriously, please…I must be missing the nuances of doing biz in TT. Thank you.

Another poster, Lee James, chimed in:

I was really wondering about the King and Queens of the Bands. I really look forward to seeing that Show. Now I know why it was not broadcast. What is really going on. Channel 4 used to be dedicated to ALL THINGS CARNIVAL, but that seems to be NO MORE. We really regressing in this country. We Reach!!!

Marc Chauharja Singh also expressed his disappointment:

NCC/NCBA, you are messing up. How do you expect our festival to grow if you block all attempts to broadcast the events locally and internationally? I get that you want to make money, but why don't you grant proper broadcast licenses? You are denying broadcast rights and then not allowing those who you give the rights to the ability to set up their equipment properly, thus ensuring that the broadcast quality is poor. This looks bad on an INTERNATIONAL scale.

Many netizens theorized that the quest for profits has eroded the cultural aspect of Carnival. Kathy Ann Black put it this way:

CNMG I thank you for your statement. I must admit that I was one of the persons who called to ask ‘what de hell going on with allyuh coverage”. I was told that you all did not have any rights to the coverage – I did not understand then, and because of your statement I understand now. Ok, so what happens now – how is this breach of contract going to be addressed – THESE PERSONS on the board of NCC and NCBA who make decisions on behalf of the COUNTRY (i.e. you , me and everybody) should not have ANY POSITION IN ANY OF THESE ORGANISATIONS – they don't have one Patriotic Bone in their bodies. I wonder if anyone of them ever played any kind of Mas’ or had any kind of intimate dealings with Carnival and the celebrations at all. All decisions made appear to be selfish and it is all about the MONEY. What part of the decision making was about the PEOPLE OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. They don't care.

As the curtain closes on Carnival 2015, it is hoped that stakeholders will review the challenges faced by broadcasters, and act in the best interest of the public in the future.

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