Government clarifies cost of weekly briefings

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts admitted that an error was made when revealing the cost of weekly, live, televised press briefing to the Finance Committee last week.

Mr. Tibbetts said during Thursday’s media briefing that the hosting and airing these programmes costs between $500 to $600 per show, rather than the $6,000 he had stated in a Finance Committee meeting days earlier.

He said the error had been made because the costs of GIS Spotlight – a 15-minute television show produced by the Government Information Services – and the weekly televised press conference had been mixed up, and it was Spotlight that cost between $5,000 and $6,000 per show.

‘The mistake was based on a simple misuse of terms; similar descriptions are used in budget documents to refer to the briefings, as well as to Spotlight,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.

‘Further compounding the confusion is the fact that both the live press briefings, and Spotlight, are aired twice weekly,’ he added.

The costs of both programmes cover the salaries of staff who produce the shows and the overheads for facilities and equipment, and no profit is made by GIS, Mr Tibbetts said.

Both shows are aired for free by Radio Cayman and CITN.

The Government had revealed the erroneous figure after opposition United Democratic Party leader McKeeva Bush demanded to know the full cost of the press briefings.

The press briefings have been regularly criticised by opposition politicians who feel that the publicly funded programmes are often used to forward party politics, while no public funds are made available to the UDP to circulate its political stances.

Mr. Tibbetts used the press briefing forum to state that the Government believed the opposition was able to fully get its views into the public domain.

‘Opposition spokespersons are heard regularly on the talk shows and other radio news programmes, or seen on television and in the newspapers commenting on various issues. Overall, the evidence suggests that the opposition is doing quite well on its own getting its views to the public via the media.’