Glory of CARIFESTA and challenges for the media

Glory of CARIFESTA and challenges for the media

By Rickey Singh

Thursday, August 22, 2013

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Given the very disappointing 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 Greater Caribbean.

CARIFESTA is often readily described by the region's media and successive host governments as our "premier cultural festival" for showcasing the creative talents and skills of the diversified regional cultures and art forms.

The pitiful reality, however, is that both governments and the private sector have been reducing commitment in contributions to sustain this 41-year-old visionary project that had its genesis 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.

The core problem is a lack of 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 owned and operated by private and public sector enterprises within Caricom.

In a telephone conversation I initiated with the CBU's Secretary General, Patrick Cozier, during a working session at the Guyana International Conference Centre, he shared the disappointments being expressed by media colleagues.

According to Cozier, a recurring problem for appropriate coverage in the staging of CARIFESTAs that surfaced within a few years after its historic inauguration 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 coordinated CARIFESTA coverage involving the Community's governments (possibly via the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown). Additionally, are we (CBU) tapping the resources of leading private sector enterprises -- I have in mind 'One Caribbean' 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, which ends today, would reflect the consensus of participating delegates.

In the meantime, it is relevant to note that following Guyana's successful hosting of the 10th CARIFESTA, Suriname continues to demonstrate an impressive ability to host this mega-regional cultural event. Current President Desi Bouterse gave the firm assurance in his address at the opening of CARIFESTA XI 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 generates economic beneifits..."

It is hoped that the CBU, for all its claimed commitment, does not at this time of spreading economic crisis limp into a state of coma, like the once very high-profile and committed Caribbean Publishers and Broadcasters Association (CPBA), as the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) continues to struggle, against the odds, to make its impact in providing a relatively impressive package of relevant news and views.

Perhaps the big corporate names and high-profile entrepreneurs in the private sector of the regional media in Caricom may yet wish to surprise us with a 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 — including, of course, CARIFESTA.

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