Former Managing Director of CableVision, now the forerunner of FLOW, Hugh Dolland has spoken out against the planned closure of the local network known as Community Channel 6 (CC6) at the end of June.
Approximately two weeks ago news surfaced regarding the planned closure of the local channel, which provided viewers with local content and aided in the development of cultural heritage.
In disbelief and disagreement with the new direction being taken by the FLOW management, Dolland, who was involved in the 1991 negotiations that led to the establishment of the local channel, wrote a letter to the company expressing his concern.
The letter was also copied to the Minister of Telecommunications, Gregory Bowen and the Chairman of the National Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (NTRC), Dr. Linus Spencer Thomas.
Addressing the issue on Monday during a press conference at the Spice Basket at Beaulieu, St. George, Dolland sought to bring greater awareness to the general public as it relates to the important role the Channel played in Grenadian societies.
“CC-6 provided some stability to Grenada Cable Vision, because we felt confident that once we are able to go into the various communities and record programmes in the schools and villages that persons would always subscribe to Cable because they would like to see themselves and their love ones on television – they can see programmes with which they can identify,” he said.
“Apart from that we also thought it was a wonderful opportunity to assist with the development of our culture because once persons saw that they were being recorded…they went the extra mile to excel…and Channel 6 was indeed a rural Community Channel because we engaged the communities (in) the various activities – we recorded and aired them,” he added.
The businessman recalled that during the 1991 negations with Cable & Wireless, which introduced Cable television to the island in 1992, it was agreed that as a local company it was compelled “to establish a local channel”.
“While the then government was issuing a license allowing for the airing of a multiplicity of foreign channels in the country, they insisted that we had to have a local channel,” Dolland said, noting that “it was not just a matter of carrying a local channel…but that the company itself had to have a local channel and that is where Channel 6 was born.”
“I could only hope that that clause is within the existing license now in the possession of FLOW,” he added, expressing disgust at the idea of having “a foreign company come in and say, whether there is a condition or not within the license, we are going to shut you down and we are going to proceed and that is the problem I really had”.
“It is a principled position; I think (it) is morally wrong and highly unethical in terms of the way in which it was done (announced the closure of CC6),” he said.
The former Channel-6 Managing Director told reporters when he learnt about the company’s planned closure, he “concluded that there was nothing within the license that made it compulsory for them to carry a local channel, because obviously it (FLOW 1 closure) is a violation of the license if there is such a clause in the (new) license.
“I know a clause was there at the time of our negotiations with the government in 1991 and I would hate to think that government or the NTRC would treat a foreign investor different than they would treat the local,” he remarked.
Dolland referenced the words in the first verse of a calypso called “Cultural Heritage” that was sang in 1973, by the now Calypso Monarch of Trinidad and Tobago, “Mighty Chalkdust,” which he feels strikingly relates to the ongoing FLOW 1 closure issue.
The first verse in the song goes as follows: “To dear folks I am appealing; it is time we do some stocktaking. Outside values we are pushing while ours deteriorating. It looks as though we are ashamed of our roots from where we came, foreign culture acts we are proud and our very own, we are not proud of.”
According to Dolland, this “basically tells the story as to what is exactly happening with us here in Grenada”.
He called on the management of FLOW to “rethink their position” on the issue and expressed the view that if the company’s intentions are as a result of financial concerns with regards to the operation of the channel, then “that situation is going to get 10 times worse, because the security that they had to maintain that customer base is being undermined by the removal of Channel 6”.
“Think this thing through – I don’t think we are on the right track. I know they have made a lot of blunders over the years and this could well be another one.
“I am powerless to deal with this as an individual but the relevant authorities are not attaching the level of importance to this matter as I think they should be.
Dolland told reporters that he has “difficulty to understand how on earth we can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in excess of a million odd dollars on an annual basis in order to pay network rights to view foreign programmes and when we look at the question of paying to maintain our community channel which provide our own local programming you have a difficulty doing that.”
He disclosed that he did receive “an acknowledgement of the letter from the Country Manager of FLOW,” James Pitt who promised that “he was going to get back to me.”
However, the businessman stressed that he is concerned about the situation because “I cannot afford or we cannot afford to sit idly by and wait and hope that a response would come (and) we are not too sure what the response would be”.
Dolland went on: “…At the same time we recognise that if we sit and do nothing, come the end of June, CC6, now FLOW 1 would be no more, and this is why I thought it is important to at least say something as early as possible.”
He said, while it may appear as though he “is the only voice for the time being, I could only hope that our viewers and listeners out there would see the importance of what we are attempting to do in order to ensure that our cultural heritage is not lost.”