Cayman 27 closing down

Cayman 27 will come off the air on Friday, after its owner Hurley’s TV Ltd. announced it is ceasing operations.

Hurley’s TV Ltd. released a statement Wednesday saying the station, which has been on the air for 27 years, will broadcast its final show at 6pm on Friday. The last show to be aired will be its flagship Cayman 27 News.

Randy Merren, managing director of Hurley’s TV Ltd., said the station had been struggling for the better part of a decade and laid the blame for the impending closure at the feet of regulator OfReg.

“I acquired Cayman 27 because, as a Caymanian, it was important to keep the country’s only FTA [free-to-air] independent television station in local hands and to continue providing invaluable service to the public,” Merren said in a statement. “In my discussions with the regulator prior to the acquisition, I made it clear that there were serious financial concerns and I was under the impression that there would be the creation of a ‘must carry’ fee where each subscription TV licensed operator would pay to carry Cayman 27, so they could fulfill their own licence obligations that required each to provide local content.

“The ‘must carry’ fee or Universal Service Fund never came to pass.”

Merren said that earlier this year, Cayman 27 received an OfReg notice of unpaid fees spanning “a couple of years”. According to documents seen by the Cayman Compass, the unpaid fees totalled $103,619.71 and related to outstanding licence and regulatory fees.

Merren said that, in May, Cayman 27 again laid out to OfReg the issues the company faces, stating that without a monetary contribution of a subscription fee, Hurley’s TV Ltd. would have “no choice but to terminate the channel’s current programming as it is unsustainable under its licence requirements”.

OfReg in June launched a public consultation into its regulatory remit concerning licences and other matters, including local content, regarding information and communications technology. The consultation period ended on 16 Aug.

In August, Cayman 27 received an enforcement notice as the 29 July compliance date for payment of outstanding fees had passed. A couple of weeks later, Merren said, OfReg issued a suspension notice, giving Cayman 27 a deadline of 1 Sept. to address the financial compliance issues, or its licence rights would be suspended.

“In the absence of support from successive government administrations and a lack of a level playing field set by the regulator, we find ourselves in the regrettable position of no longer being able to continue daily operations. We have no choice but to shut down Cayman 27 and Hurley’s TV Ltd.,” said Merren in the statement.

Cayman 27 opened in 1992, and was first a division of WestStar TV Ltd., before becoming part of Logic Communications Ltd. in 2014. It was acquired by the Hurley’s TV Ltd. in 2015.

Merren said that during the regulator’s 2015 consultation period looking at the future of local television broadcasting, numerous submissions were made pointing out the market was too small to support one TV station as a stand-alone free-to-air station without some sort of subscription model. It was also noted that Cayman 27 has never been profitable as it had been subsidised from its inception by its parent company WestStar as part of its own cable licence requirement that it provide local content.

He said that, over the years, Cayman 27 had consistently provided local content comprised of news, weather, sports, talk shows, hurricane information and community events.

Cayman 27 also employed and trained Caymanians to learn the tools of both the television production and television journalism trades, Television Station Manager Tammi Sulliman said in the statement.

“The training of Caymanians at the TV station is one aspect of which I am immensely proud. As long as someone was willing to learn and dedicate themselves to the service of the country through the work we do, the team at Cayman 27 always took the time to train and upskill those who needed it,” she said.

“The loss of this important training ground is one that personally affects me as I am acutely aware of how many people gained skills and employment as a result of their time at Cayman 27,” she added.

For more on this story, see Friday’s Cayman Compass.

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