Bajan govt stand shames T&T efforts
March 18, 2001
WHILE Trinidad and Tobago’s Government fiddles and local broadcasters try to negotiate a softer position, Barbados has quietly implemented legislation requiring radio stations to play a daily minimum of 60 per cent of music created in the Caribbean.
Barbadian Attorney General David Simmons will tomorrow meet top executives of the island’s broadcasting companies, to review the effect of regulations implemented last December, aimed at protecting intellectual property on a Caribbean wide basis.
The Barbadian Government is already at the appraisal stage, but here, where much more music is made, Trinidad and Tobago’s Recording Industry Association (RIATT) is still on its knees, begging for legislation to protect indigenous creative from an onslaught of foreign products.
Last November 3, a powerful group of local artistes took to the streets of Port of Spain in a protest march, intended to bring the Government’s attention to the disproportionate amount of local music being played on radio daily.
The group had earlier held talks with and delivered a draft of its position to Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, in which RIATT pressed for a split that would see radio including not less than 50 per cent of local music in daily programming.
RIATT president Kenny Phillips described Maharaj as receptive, but the AG’s moves to insert broadcast regulations covering the Association’s concerns into the Telecommunications Bill currently being debated in the Senate, ran into an inter-Ministerial snag. For yet another time, the issue has been put on hold.
Sources say the Information Ministry’s major concern hinges on what it sees as conflict between RIATT’s protectionist demands and the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Ministry has designed a softer approach, but that too is yet to take root. Interestingly, the next meeting of the World Trade Organisation has as one of its priority agenda items, the matter of intellectual property.
Junior Culture Minister, Winston “Gypsy” Peters who, during last November’s election campaign, repeatedly promised he would address RIATT’s concerns the minute he got to Parliament has, from the day of his ascendancy, been occupied with more pressing matters, including his very continuance in The House.
Last week, RIATT and the T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) met and exchanged proposals on the issue. One of the TTPBA proposals calls for a State-owned frequency to play local music exclusively, a programming concept that has already failed here twice in the past ten years.
Speaking to the Sunday Express at his office in the Barbados Parliament building on Monday last, Simmons said he and his Cabinet colleagues do not wait for protest demonstrations to be convinced of the need for legislation dealing with art and culture. “We see the entertainment that can be derived from this region’s culture as a globally marketable commodity,” Simmons said.
Some 18 months earlier, the Barbadian Government upgraded its law of trespass to make illegal, the intrusion of uncostumed revelers into Carnival bands, an issue that has also been hanging fire here for many years.
Similarly, Barbados’ new broadcast regulations were simply an update of an old law.
“I was able to cite the archaic Films Act that mandated Barbadian cinemas to show 50 per cent British films,” Simmons said. “And if under British rule we could have gone along with their demand for such exposure, then under our own governance we could certainly seek to showcase the region’s indigenous arts to at least the same degree.
“We didn’t limit it to Barbados or to music. Moving toward a single market economy as we are, there would be little point to institutionalising insularity. I therefore felt we should have the local and regional content of broadcasting reflect the expressions of local and regional peoples.
“I am on record as complaining many times over about the mis-application of technology in the region in this regard,” Simmons said. “The closer the people of the region become in political and economic terms, the more we are being kept apart by the proliferation of FM stations throughout the region, which do not allow people in the various countries to hear each other.
“From early in my life and indeed, up to five years ago, we listened to 610 AM and 730 AM and we knew what was happening in Trinidad on a daily basis.
Now, 610 has reduced its power and Indianised itself and 730 we pick up very faintly. The philosophy of the region has changed, so it becomes even more important that our people are in touch with what is happening in other territories,” Simmons said.
“It must be of concern to all persons with such responsibility that our arts generally have not been getting the kind of exposure, recognition and royalties they deserve. Our Government certainly sees the economics of the matter as well. If we keep more of the resulting royalties in the region instead of shipping it out to North America, it will immediately redound to our benefit.
Apparently, the Trinidad and Tobago Government is yet to buy any of those arguments. Between 1995 and 1999, the Copyright Organisation here collected $13,719, 036 and turned over $9,597,035 to the Performing Rights Society (PRS) in England.
The sum was based on a flawed reckoning that 25 percent of the music played on radio daily is locally generated. It is an untruth universally acknowledged. Fact is, the indigenous input really stands at a pitiful 12 per cent which, if realistically calculated, would have added another $2million to the export figure.
A TABLE OF RADIO
AIRPLAY IN THE CARIBBEAN (1999)
Country, followed by
Share of local-regional % airplay
Dominican Republic/ 60
St Lucia/ 40
St Vincent/ 40
Trinidad and Tobago/ 26.5
Source: Paul Berry—Business Plan for the implementation of a regional system for collective management of copyright and related rights in the Caribbean, commissioned by the World Intellectual Property Organisation.