GIVEN THE very disappointing paucity of regional media coverage of the nine-day 11th Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta), currently being hosted by Suriname, the annual general assembly of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), now taking place in Guyana, can hardly avoid enlightening the region’s people of the dilemma it faces in servicing the needs of its own 24 constituencies across the Caribbean.
Carifesta is often readily described by the region’s print and electronic media as what successive host governments are fond of labelling as our “premier cultural festival” for showcasing the creative talents and skills of the diversified cultures and art forms usually on display.
The pitiful reality, however, is that both governments and the private sector have been revealing declining commitment in contributions to sustain this visionary project that had its genesis 41 years ago in Guyana.
A major negative consequence of this attitude is the denial of even reasonable coverage by the print and electronic media, particularly the latter, in providing live broadcasts of at least the opening and closing programmes, with some subsequent recorded highlights in between to their regional affiliates.
The core problem is lack of financial sponsorship to help enable the CBU to complement its own limited resources for the benefit of its network of affiliates. These, incidentally, include some well-established electronic enterprises (radio and television) owned and operated by private and public sector enterprises within Caricom.
In a telephone conversation I initiated yesterday with the CBU’s secretary general, Patrick Cozier, while a working session was taking place at the Guyana International Conference Centre, he shared the disillusionment and disappointment being expressed by colleagues in both the print and electronic media.
According Cozier, a recurring problem for appropriate coverage in the staging of Carifesta that surfaced within a few years after its historic inauguration in Guyana, is that host governments, as well as leading media enterprises, do not make budgetary provisions “in preparation for media coverage, while a comparative few do so on an ad hoc basis”.
I inquired whether the CBU’s management themselves may not also be at fault in ensuring co-ordinated Carifesta coverage involving the Community’s governments (possibly via the Caricom Secretariat in Georgetown); tapping the resources of leading private sector enterprises (I have in mind the One Caribbean Media conglomerate as a primary example); as well as energising its own 24 affiliates to be forthcoming in contributions.
Cozier’s response was that the CBU’s current 44th annual general assembly would be addressing various aspects of this and related problems. He said that a statement from the assembly would reflect the consensus of participating delegates.
In the meanwhile it is relevant to note that following Guyana’s successful hosting of the 10th Carifesta, Suriname continues to demonstrate an impressive level of government commitment to hosting this mega regional cultural event.
Current President Desi Bouterse gave the firm assurance in his address at the opening of Carifesta X1 last Saturday: “We are dedicated to position this (year’s) Carifesta as a world renowned hallmark festival of Caribbean culture and artistic excellence that unites the Caribbean, excites all its people and (also) generates economic benefits…”
It is to be hoped that the CBU, for all its claimed commitment does not, at this time of spreading economic crisis, slip into a state of coma like the once very high profile and committed Caribbean Publishers and Broadcasters Association (CPBA).
Even, that is, as the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) continues to struggle, against the odds, to make its impact in providing daily a relatively impressive package of relevant news and views.
However, welcome as CMC is in its operations with very scarce resources, the reality is that, with the exception to the introduction of its limited broadcast Caribvision programme, today’s CMC seems a shadow of its former self as what existed for many years, the Caribbean News Agency (CANA)—thanks much to dependable foreign funding.
Perhaps the big corporate names and high profile entrepreneurs in private ownership of the regional media in Caricom may yet wish to surprise us with their commitment to find creative ways in overcoming obstacles currently standing in the way of both CBU and CMC in improving the spread and quality of regional coverage of developments and events—including Carifesta.