Private sector advises on government 'media merger'

A number of private sector entities, including Cayman Islands media professionals, will meet with U.K. officials this week to give their views on establishing an effective government communications apparatus.  

Officials from the U.K. government Cabinet office and Home Office will conduct their “Communications Capability Review” of the Cayman Islands government-owned media, including Government Information Services, Radio Cayman and CIG-TV 20, in private meetings being held throughout this week.  

Those invited to attend the meetings include “local media, private sector public relations professionals and other key industry leaders,” according to a notice sent out by the Cayman Islands Cabinet office.  

Questions have been raised in recent days concerning whether the Progressives-led government would follow through with Premier Alden McLaughlin’s proposal to merge the three government communications entities into one. Mr. McLaughlin announced last November that the merger would occur, however, his comments earlier this month seemed less certain.  

“The big question isn’t so much about the merger of these things, it’s that ‘is the system that we have in place … effective in delivering the communications that government needs?’” Mr. McLaughlin said.  

The U.K. reviewers in Cayman this week are expected to produce a report on their findings which will be made public, Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose said.  

Radio Cayman and Government Information Services, which includes the operation of the government-owned television channel, each receive $1 million per year subsidies from the government, according to figures projected in the current 2014/15 budget. The entire government communications apparatus, not including various spokespersons and media managers who work within separate government departments or ministries, employs about 35 people.  

Mr. McLaughlin said in November that the government’s decision to merge the operations “into one unit” derived from recommendations in the Ernst & Young consultancy report presented to territory leaders last year. The report actually recommended selling Radio Cayman and absorbing Government Information Services staff into various ministries, but the premier announced earlier that the government wouldn’t sell the public radio station.  

The EY report noted that a merger of the entities could be considered if the radio station sale was not pursued. 

The premier said he did not know whether all 35 employees working in the various government media operations would keep their jobs. The merger was expected to take “months, rather than years” to complete, according to the premier.