Caribbean broadcasters and producers cannot be enemies if the industry is to thrive, says media strategist

BRIDGETOWN – For the Caribbean’s audio visual industry to thrive and connect with the widest audience, the region’s broadcasters and independent producers cannot be enemies and must see themselves as partners, says media strategist Nerissa Golden.

Golden was one of more than 30 broadcasters, filmmakers and television producers attending a workshop hosted by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) during the Best of CaribbeanTales Symposium and Film Festival held on Barbados from February 23 to March 2.

The discussion was aimed at developing an ongoing dialogue between the broadcast and production communities in order to increase the exposure of Caribbean audio visual content within the region and beyond.

The general tone of the discussion lead by Patrick Cozier, CEO of the CMC was that there was a need to let bygones be bygones. He called for the rift to be bridged in order to focus on the common goal of sharing our Caribbean stories with the world.

Several producers and broadcasters agreed that the history between broadcasters throughout the region and independent producers is a long and sordid one but for the good of the art form and the development of our cultures new ways of collaboration need to be formed.

Vic Fernandes, head of Starcoms Networks who is returning to the post of Chairman of the CMC called for regional bodies such as CARICOM to put the expansion of the CMC and Caribvision, the cable channel back on the agenda. He urged members of the CBU, regional media groups, independent producers and filmmakers to lobby their political leaders to make CMC/Caribvision a priority.

Mariel Brown of Trinidad & Tobago, who produces Sancoche, a culinary art show said broadcasters were to blame for the present situation as they were unwilling to giving local programming a fair chance, although they were being produced at a very high quality.

The challenge as presented by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) head Lars Stromberg is that regional producers are asking for several times more than the cost of purchasing content from the United States. He understood the need for everyone to recoup their investment but said there was no way it could come from one local source.

Howard Allen of HAMA TV and HAMA Films Antigua says that producers need the broadcasters and vice versa. “You have to work together because you are making your movie or programme because you want audiences to see it. Broadcasters have audiences and so a partnership needs to develop which can benefit everyone.”

Allen said the successes his company has received with producing three successful films and now television programmes such as Paradise View was because they maintained positive working relationships with their local television stations and also regional ones, such as Caribvision.

Nerissa Golden of goldenmedia, who also serves as the Director of Information & Communication for the Government of Montserrat said new forms of partnerships between broadcasters and producers could be a win for everyone. “Some of the producers are holding too tightly to the stance that they should earn the maximum dollars that they have put out on their shows and the regional broadcasters are unable to pay these fees,” explained Golden.

“As suggested by several persons attending the session, producers have to be willing to think more strategically and look to form regional and even international networks to air their programmes so they can earn money from a variety of sources.” “This is a much better strategy,” suggested Golden.

“If your present marketplace will only allow 10,000 people to see your show, then getting it on stations around the region would increase the audience and the opportunities to regain the investment. A longer term strategy that Golden says producers must consider is investing in Caribvision. “They are already in 21 nations in the region and in the US on Direct TV. The channel does not have liquid cash to hand out to every producer but it’s a terrific time to develop strategic partnerships that will have long term benefits to the channel, the producers and the nations of the region.”

This level of partnership is very familiar to Lisa Wickham of eZone Entertainment. She told the gathering that she tried for several years to get her programming on regional stations and most were not interested in paying for them. She gave away the first six years of the programming and in 2006, signed an agreement with BETJ for airing her entire catalog of shows.

Although the thought of giving away hard earned money seems ludicrous at this stage, for the Caribbean industry to grow, producers must be willing to take chances and let go of their preconceived ideas of how much money they are gonna make on their shows.

Christopher Laird of Gayelle TV in Trinidad called this “waiting on the big pay off”. He said many producers and filmmakers were not interested in showing their movies on local television because they have the idea that a Hollywood distributor is about to come along any moment and pay them a lump sum of money. “You have got a better chance of people seeing your movie or TV programmes on Caribvision, Gayelle or local TV than a Hollywood producer coming to buy your film. There is residual income to be made from being on local channels and regional ones. People will seek you out to purchase your DVDs, check out what other projects you have coming. You will build a fan base that will stay loyal to you because they are seeing themselves on screen,” Laird said.

“The tendency of Hollywood or even European broadcasters is to purchase the rights to air your show or film and then lock it away until they want to air it and sometimes that can be never. You want to keep as much control as you can over your work and setting up partnerships with broadcasters who have a vested interest in developing content for their own channels and connecting with their audiences on their level is a much more effective solution,” Golden suggests.

About goldenmedia

goldenmedia is a public and media relations firm that has been working with young entrepreneurs and the non-profit sector in the Caribbean for more than five years. Its flagship brand is trulycaribbean.net, which is a web portal that celebrates the work of Caribbean people, and provides information and resources to boost spirit, minds and body. Nerissa Golden is the author of The Making of a Caribbeanpreneur: Strategies for Overcoming Fear and Building Wealth and Truly Caribbean Woman’s Guide to Good Love.

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