Dissolve Government Information Services Ltd (GISL), dispose of its television station TV4 and cease all contract work. These are among the recommendations contained in the report on the future of Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) and GISL, prepared by the company’s board under former chairman Helen Drayton.
The report was submitted to Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie several weeks ago and is being reviewed by the Cabinet.
Drayton, a former independent senator, who was among the first to be appointed by the Government, resigned late last month.
The report also recommended CNMG change its name to be more reflective of its mandate. The report suggested the entity be renamed the Broadcasting Trust Corporation (BTC) T&T Ltd.
The report also found that GISL and the Government Information Services Department (GISD) provided the same services.
Amidst fears for workers employed at those entities, the report recommends that the core operations of GISL be reintegrated with the older GISD.
It said GISL should be dissolved as a limited liability company and GISD restructured to co-ordinate the implementation of government’s information policy and provide services aligned with that particular function, as well as to support ministries and departments with the dissemination of information.
The report said there should be complete reintegration by July 2016.
In relation to the Morvant-based television station, the report said it was “a weak brand with only 40 per cent market coverage, which is below the requirement for national broadcasters of 80 per cent.”
The board said the station’s operating cost was approximately $14 million (in 2015) and employs 50 people.
“Even with considerable expenditure in upgrades, repositioning and rebranding, the prospects for achieving broad-based viewership are dim,” it said.
According to the report, “One television station is adequate for the Government’s needs and that is CTV, which has universal market coverage.
“CNMG can fill educational needs for universities and secondary schools during the peak student time between 9 am and 2 pm.
“As it now stands, there is no compelling reason GISL and TV4 should continue to exist,” the report said.
“The same may apply to CNMG, except for the sound reasons provided by citizens during the consultations,” the report said, adding that in such a case, there are valid reasons for the Government to continue its investment in some broadcast media, “but certainly not two television stations and three radio stations.”
The Government also operates the Parliament Channel 11 and Parliament Radio 105.5FM.
Dealing with the issue of contract work at CNMG, the report said it must be addressed.
“The cycle of contract work must cease, except to cater for freelancing and transitory talent to anchor programmes as required. There must be a pool of permanent employees who the company engages as loyal and committed workers,” it added.
Insulate media service from political influence
Between 2010 and 2015, CNMG maintained an average of 123 fixed-term employees and 60 freelancers.
Its wage bill increased from $13.9 million to $17.6 million over the same period.
The report said the December 2014 audited accounts showed CNMG revenues totalled $30.2 million and its expenditure was $53.6 million.
The public consultations cost CNMG more than $69,000.
CNMG was incorporated in 2006 as a limited liability company to replace National Broadcasting Network (NBN) which operated Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) and three radio stations.
The report said there was a need for the Government to rationalise all of its communications information services with the objective of cutting costs, while achieving synergies and operating efficiencies.
It was also intended to “insulate public service media from political influence,” the report said.
The report said during the public consultations citizens felt “the state media should view its investment as a contribution to fostering national identity and promoting national development.”
The report was commissioned by Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie in September, soon after the board was appointed, and is now being studied by the Terrence Farrell team which is examining state enterprises.