Government explores options on TV channel

Two Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly members questioned Friday why the government-run television channel, dubbed CIG-TV, isn’t being offered “for free.”

Currently, the only way to receive the government channel on a full-time basis is to subscribe to Weststar cable service. The government TV channel’s signal is sometimes rebroadcast on Logic’s UHF frequency station, channel 23, but that is not a 24/7 broadcast.

“This is the House of the people and [the government TV station] should be made available free of cost to these people,” East End MLA Arden McLean said. “I see where the Information and Communications Technology Authority is talking about television and local content. “When are we going to do CIG-TV as free for this country and the people?”

Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden concurred with Mr. McLean that government-run television programming should be available free of charge.

Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose, whose office has responsibility for government public communications including Government Information Services, the television channel and Radio Cayman, said he fully supports the members’ views.

“It’s presently offered on one of the local cable providers, Weststar,” Mr. Rose said. “That was the original agreement. That deal expires this year [in November]. We are looking at options right now.”

Mr. McLean also pointed out that there doesn’t seem to be enough content on the government TV channel to program it around the clock.

Mr. Rose said one issue with content is a sponsorship issue with the cable company. “The agreement we have with Weststar prevents us from providing any content that would take sponsorships away from Weststar,” he said.

Government Information Services Director Suzette Ebanks said her staff is also trying to fill programming gaps by “aggressively going out and filming” any event going on in the community.

The station broadcasts some public affairs programming live, including live broadcasts of proceedings in the Legislative Assembly and the LA’s Finance Committee. It does not broadcast meetings of other government-appointed boards and commissions, even those few that are open to the public.

Mr. McLean also asked why LA proceedings were not being broadcast live on Radio Cayman, the government-owned radio station that operates FM signals 89.9 and 105.3.

Premier Alden McLaughlin responded that the stations, which do broadcast LA proceedings on tape delay at night, would lose revenue from sponsorships if their regularly scheduled daytime and evening programming was interrupted by legislative meetings.

“Not everybody is as keen to listen to the work of the Legislative Assembly as you might think,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “We’re going to lose significant revenue immediately if we go down that course. Radio Cayman has lots of competition for those commercial dollars.”

The operation of Radio Cayman, CIG-TV 20 and the Government Information Services office will require government to allocate about $2.15 million in additional revenue during the upcoming 2014/15 budget to supplement revenue already generated by the entities’ commercial sponsorships.