The inclement weather isn’t the only thing that’s leaving homesick, Carnival-loving Trinis out in the cold this winter.
For the second year running, it’ll be anybody’s guess where, or if, any of us will be able to see a live stream of carnival bands as they cross the Savannah stage.
And history looks set to repeat itself this year. The last-minute rush to secure broadcast rights, one month before the bands hit the streets, shows that no new steps were taken to create a strategic, holistic plan to streamline the process for future years.
In late January, Caribbean Intelligence© contacted National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) President David Lopez to find out how the process was going.
He said that the NCBA was still taking tenders from media companies to broadcast and stream the parade of the bands. However, that same day, CNMG announced
that they had obtained the rights to broadcast, but not the rights to stream.
The statement quoted CNMG’s chief executive Ken Ali as saying: “We are disappointed in that we have been curtailed in terms of our internet streaming, because we have hoards of visitors around the world who depend on the internet streaming.
“But still, we have secured what we consider a good package.”
When Caribbean Intelligence© contacted Mr Lopez again for clarity, he said, “Well if they say they have the rights, then I guess they have the rights. I don’t know. This is Trinidad, people could say what they want.”
When asked who would be streaming the parade of the bands online, he replied: “NCBA would be streaming on its own.”
Yes, London has a Carnival, so does New York and Toronto, but Trinis in the diaspora know where to find the mother ship – it’s at Port of Spain’s Queens Park Savannah on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
Back in 2013, when the Carnival feed went dead, CNMG posted a statement to their Facebook page, “apologising” for being unable to stream their live content.
Apparently, it was agreed that CNMG would provide the NCBA with a clean feed and the NCBA would stream through their website, but CNMG couldn’t stream it on their own website.
A repeat in 2014?
At the start of February 2014, it was unclear whether this would be the plan for this Carnival as well.
Nate Anderson, the deputy editor of Ars Technica, an online news site covering media in the age of the internet, says a television station has every right to stream its own content.
Only two things can change that: a strange legal clause or an opportunity to make more money elsewhere.
“There aren't any ‘rules’ about this that I've ever heard of, unless there happens to be some odd contractual rights issues or something related to online streaming, which isn't generally true for network content these days,” he told Caribbean Intelligence©.
“These are just business decisions, usually made with an eye towards not cannibalising the still-lucrative TV ad market for the much lower-paying world of online ads.”
Trinidad and Brazil
This year, the NCBA has made sure to state upfront that CNMG won’t be able to stream any of its own content.
State-owned CNMG, previously Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) before a business closure and name change, has historically held the monopoly on Carnival broadcasts.
Last year, CNMG’s Mr Ali complained that the station broadcasted the Carnival show every year, despite not making money from it.
After last year’s debacle, commentators have questioned why CNMG should even have to pay anyone to broadcast the parade, since it is state-owned.
When it comes to a television station having a stronghold on Carnival broadcast rights, CNMG has nothing on Brazil’s privately owned and ubiquitous TV Globo, the largest media house in the country, much larger than the state-owned TV Brazil.
The iconic images of highly choreographed, spectacular costumed Carnivals in the Rio de Janeiro Sambadrome are all property of Globo.
Every year, Globo is all but guaranteed the exclusive rights to cover Rio’s Carnival.
“It’s not impossible for them to lose the rights, just highly unlikely,” says Maria Paula Carvalho, a former news anchor at Globo who has covered Carnival.
“Globo and Carnival go together. They’ve been together since the beginning.”
Investing over the years
Globo reached its position on the rights to Carnival by investing heavily in it over the years.
First, the company is a major sponsor of the Rio samba schools.
Globo is also said to have partially funded the refurbishment of the city’s world-famous Sambadrome.
The firm has spent money to make money.
Globo viewers around the world outside Brazil subscribe to the company’s content and pay to stream live material.
“Covering Carnival, unless you work for Globo, can be exhausting,” Flora Chardner, who works for the Associated Press news agency in Rio de Janeiro, told Caribbean Intelligence©.
During the parade in the Sambadrome, broadcast journalists can only bookend the stage.
They are confined to an area just before the performers enter the stadium, known as “concentration.”
Only stills photographers are allowed on the stage.
Globo sells a portion of the footage from the Sambadrome, but it’s often so costly that foreign media houses prefer to take their chances in the “concentration“ area.
“You do what you can from that angle,” Ms Charner explains.
“You can shoot the crowd, some close-ups of the floats. Globo has invested so much into Carnival that they want to [manage] exactly what that image of carnival is.
“They want to make sure it’s the best quality, the best angles.”
As Trinidad works out its model for future funding of what Trinis call “The Greatest Show on Earth”, people not on Trinidad soil wait to see whether they’ll be allowed to share in the spectacle on 3 and 4 March.
Kejan Haynes is a Trinidad and Tobago broadcast journalist who is currently based in New York. He LOVES social media!
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