By H. Murray
Have you ever turned on your television set onto one of the local stations to watch the news and left it on past an hour only to wonder if you were still on the same channel, as the programming was from one of those American networks?
There are about 13 television stations in Trinidad and Tobago, most of which are on Cable, with only about four that operate nationally.
There are scores of international cable channels, predominantly American, yet still some of the local stations still find it necessary to include a large amount of foreign content in their programming.
Imagine you can find shows like USA’s Burn Notice, Lifetime’s Army Wives, NCIS, CSI, Without a Trace, Ellen DeGeneres, Desperate Housewives as well as various sitcoms throughout the night and day on these local stations. Several of these shows follow closely behind the new episodes from the American Networks and one can imagine the cost for such popular, foreign shows.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that some of the popular shows or movies cannot form part of the local programming, but at a minimal, to perhaps accommodate people who live in rural areas and do not have access to Cable.
Some may say that there isn’t a lot of local content to broadcast, but I beg to differ. There are a couple of stations that broadcast all local or even Caribbean content. Local does not have to be restricted to Trinidad and Tobago, we are part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and we share some of their culture.
Yet how many local or Caribbean movies, films, documentaries or even sitcoms do we see on our local stations? And there are numerous materials. You only hear about or see them during the annual Film Festivals we host here. Someone very close to me is in his last year of a BA in Film at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus. After his class graduates, what’s next? Students have graduated before them and have made films and documentaries. Has anyone of you seen any?
The Fourth Estate (the media) is supposed to be the voice of the people, not only when they are in trouble but also when they are trying to get their messages, in this case creations, across. I think it’s time they approach the Film students at UWI and try to give them a platform where they can create and have their films/documentaries aired.
Don’t think for one second that the Media Companies may not be aware of the Film Degree at UWI, because some of their employees are enrolled in the programme.
As it relates to Caribbean films, if you do some checking you would see that the directors of some of these films are Trinbagonians. We need to give them the encouragement to produce local/Caribbean content or they will simply migrate to where their skills are needed and appreciated. To the local stations that do air predominately local content, hats off to you, but to the others I think it’s time you guys get on the local bandwagon.