Monday, February 18, 2013

Letter to PM Kamla - Consider who's controlling the national conversation

Who owns media?
It's relatively easy to distinguish between immature and mature human societies—the former reeks of groupthink , thus crowds out individual artistry, while individual thought flourishes in the latter, exhilaratingly enhancing the depth and range of nationwide creativity, vision and conversation. 

The sustainable fortunes of human societies are therefore directly proportionate to the ease with which citizens are accorded the means to free conversation—in modern human societies, those free conversations are referred to as "the media" and those means are called "legal requirements". 

A headcount of the individuals who do or can own or control media houses is therefore a most excellent benchmark by which to evaluate any modern human society's maturation level.

In our own context—as in many countries—State licences are required to own and operate a media house; it is the government of the day which therefore ultimately sets the pace and tone of our free conversation. Put another way, we cannot and won't mature without inspirational governmental guidance. 

In light of your track record—of shattering glass ceilings—dear Honourable Madam Prime Minister, I'm asking you to move swiftly to place media ownership in Trinidad and Tobago on the front burner, because, as a nation, we have failed the abovementioned litmus test, thus are still very immature, despite recently celebrating our 50th birthday. 

Allow me to explain how I tuned in to that conclusion.

In a brief survey—ironically finetuned with the help of a media person—it seems that there are 34 radio stations in Trinidad and Tobago, a healthy population, seeing radio listenership at the most is 1.2 million. However, Marm, a full 50%—17—of those radio stations are owned by 4 citizens, as follows:

  1. McAl—5 (it also owns 2 newspapers and 1 TV network)
  2. CCN (One Caribbean)—5 (it also owns 2 newspapers, maybe 3, plus 1 TV network)
  3. Trinidad and Tobago Radio Network (Chinese Laundry)—3
  4. CL Communications (AndrĂ© Monteil established this)—4 (it also owns 1 TV network)
In other words, Madam Prime Minister: 
  • 4 corporate citizens own 50% of the radio stations in Trinidad and Tobago;
  • each of those 4 Corporate Citizens is effectively controlled by 1, maybe 2 human beings.
When market share and human fickleness are brought into the picture, therefore, in a population of 1.3 million, 4 to 8 individual citizens dictate how nearly the entire population thinks or shakes or accesses critical information.

Is that a parasitic oligarchy, Marm, or favourable?

I'm sure you're stunned as I was on realizing the gravity of the situation, thus also see how urgently the imbalance must be rectified. 

When we embarked on the journey towards and of Independence, it was precisely to prevent such monopolies remaining in control of our collective creativity and fortunes. 

Over time, laws—such as the Telecommunications Act—have been instituted particularly to prevent such monopolies. Why haven't those laws been enforced, Marm? 

Ultimately, it's the government's duty to see to such things, regardless of what the Constitution says of prosecutorial offices being independent, because "independent" never implies "inactive", "reluctant" or "inefficient" as some independent authorities seem to groupthink, leaving the government to parry the voters' wrath.

Humphrey Diefenthaller | La Horquette, Trinidad

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai