A Guy’s View: The relevance of CBC
“All o’ this talk ‘bout culture
Making me mad, uh taking it hard
How dem expect, to have culture plan
For Caribbean man from North American
We got to start here at home
And then we’ll no longer roam …
All o’ them shows on TV, you must agree, are not for we
Show me some Castle in my skin, by George Lamming, for my viewing.”
(The Mighty Gabby – Culture)
The world is inundated with American films and music and this has undermined indigenous cultures around the globe. This is one of the problems that many have identified as a cause of the moral collapse and rise in violence in our youth population.
In the battle to preserve the soul of our nation, no entity can play a more important role than the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). That corporation’s shortcomings have caused us to overlook its importance and throw out the baby with the bathwater when we address our minds to that entity.
CBC can play no greater role in this society than to give us a glimpse of ourselves in a sea of foreign faces. Unfortunately, it seems that neither CBC nor those with the ability to influence it have embraced this responsibility.
Barbados has produced many great men and women in diverse fields, but nothing has done more for this country than cricket. It may be a little deflating for some of our outstanding academics and business moguls to stomach this fact, but it is true.
Many of our people have had successful personal pursuits, but when our personal interests are set aside, cricket has benefited Barbados more than any other endeavour. It has provided a good standard of living for many individuals, but beyond their personal benefit, it has brought more positive attention to this country than any other field of activity.
In meetings and conferences around the world that have nothing to do with cricket or any sport, the moment people hear that you are from Barbados, cricket becomes the subject, of late, even if it is only to commiserate with you.
Some years ago, too many now, CBC brought live cricket on Saturday afternoons. The quality of the broadcasts was substandard, especially when compared to what is beamed into our homes now from around the world, but it demonstrated that the Corporation was aware of its key position in reflecting what was important to us. That service ended, and so too did cricket dominance in Barbados and West Indies cricket dominance around the world.
The Gold Cup, under the name of different sponsors, has become the principal horse racing event in the Caribbean. It is now attracting the participation of one of the more established horse owners in North America. His involvement has allowed racing fans here to see some of the better horses that have ever raced this side of the world. One of our local trainers recently remarked that one of the horses entered in this year’s event was the best overseas horse ever to race here. Clearly, this is a major event that many Barbadians would have an interest in following.
Last year, CBC made the decision that it would not bring that event live as it had been doing for some time. And, as I understand it, for good reason. This year, a similar thing happened. This would have been a letdown for a lot of people.
As well, it was noticeable that the Independence Lighting Ceremony was not brought live on television last year. It has become customary for a large number of Barbadians to assemble in Bridgetown to be part of the entertainment and the switching on of the lights to mark the start of our period of independence celebrations, but many more choose to stay at home and watch on television. They too deserve to be a part of this national event.
Sporting events are an important feature of the recreational lives of our people. A relaxed and happy people have a positive frame of mind and this redounds to their well-being and that of their community. But more importantly, events of national consciousness, like the marking of our national independence, can scarcely be surpassed in significance. I can never accept that the importance of this would be lost on the directors of the CBC. Therefore, such a move must have been impossible to avoid.
Each passing year, it seems that CBC is being forced to recede further from the lives of Barbadians. The position of being the sole local television station is now irrelevant from an entertainment point of view, for there are many sources of viewing that have nothing to do with CBC. The only reason to have CBC is to bring Barbados onto our television screens. If this is not possible, then there should be no CBC.
These thoughts came to mind last week when I read that Parliament had voted $9.2 million for the Corporation, which was described as a bailout. If my memory serves me right, there seemed to have been similar bailouts before, and still CBC is in a hole. The question which comes to mind, therefore, is whether good money is being thrown behind bad.
It is easy to say, without fear of contradiction, that if it is business as usual, there will be future bailouts without any change in that entity’s circumstances or outcomes. Frankly, that would be a most irresponsible use of the people’s resources. Paternalism has its limits and, given the media resources that are available to Barbadians, CBC may have reached its limit.
Salaries alone can eat up the funds that were voted and the Corporation would be no better off than it was before the vote. That is why it was reassuring to hear that the funds will be made available on the presentation of a plan for the future sustainability of the Corporation. In its current form, CBC cannot long survive. It is already a drain on the tax payers’ money and it is destined to become an even greater burden, unless there is a 180 degree turn in its direction.
The paucity of local programming takes away its relevance. The killing, witchcraft and immorality with which we entertain ourselves are readily available on the other channels offered to us, on Netflix, on YouTube and several other media. So what is the way forward?