Thursday, August 8, 2013

Guest commentary: We need a national dialogue on Communications Convergence - by Ashvani Mahabir

Ashvani Mahabir
The purchase of the Washington Post by the founder and CEO of Amazon Inc. Jeff Bezos, is possibly a watershed event in the history of print media. Technology and media circles are predictably abuzz about the infinite possibilities for the future of ‘e-newspapers’ that now sit on the horizon. 

It is widely predicted that the highly respected paper may be weaned off its print edition and seek an expansive audience including youth and the tech savvy who hibernate within the shelter of twitter and face book. 

Given his remarkable genius, Bezos is set to transform the way we receive and read the news.

This acquisition of a major newspaper by internet giant Amazon promotes valuable lessons for our local media practitioners, owners and the State. Convergence of communications technology has been in debate for several years; the coming together or merging of digital modes into one common platform. 

Yet still as a society we are seemingly uninformed about the pros and cons of this dynamic shift. How prepared is Trinidad and Tobago to deal with the vastly changing realities in this quickly revolving technological world? How is the purchase of the Washington Post by an international multibillion dollar electronic commerce company likely to affect the Caribbean and the developing world?

It’s refreshing to note that some daily newspapers have either commenced or signaled their intention to go fully digital in the future and have begun to advise its readers to “log on”. But what does this mean for the future of the printed newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago? And how do we begin to educate our people on the tremendous potential this holds for moving our society into 21stCentury communications ideology? 

The newspaper of tomorrow may look more like television news, with news articles accompanied by digital video and sound on the website. The role, function and appearance of the very journalist are also set to change. 

The changing format has now created the “backpack” journalist who walks with pen and notepad to take notes, voice recorder to record clips, camera for still images and digital camcorder for video. 

In the changing world, the backpack journalist is equipped with one piece of technology that performs all functions, but nonetheless has become reporter for newspapers, radio and television all at once. The newsroom and the media house too, would feel the consequences of the shifting communications paradigm. 

And our Government as well, must be alert to such communications convergence which provides limitless opportunities for e-commerce and e-governance.

Trinidad and Tobago sits on the verge of leading this voyage in the Caribbean for vibrant e-newspapers and for presenting new opportunities and innovative strategies as those that await the Washington Post. 

Our greatest asset is no doubt our vibrant journalistic and media history. What is needed now is the commencement of a national conversation and dialogue between the various stakeholders and the State on the issue of “communications convergence and its potential impact on the development of Trinidad and Tobago”.

By doing so, we would no doubt recommit towards legislative and regulatory reform that is acceptable and driven by consensus. Such a conversation would also create the pathway towards ensuring that our communications environment is competitive and reflective of global change.

Ashvani Mahabir

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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