Archive for ‘Bombardier’

March 17, 2008

When good news goes bad.

As we slogged through the morass of tepid news stories today I had pause to ponder on the nature of what we consider news. Too often it seems that we view stories as fodder to fill a half hour rather than worrying too much about the quality or even, heaven help us, the freshness of stories. This phenomenon is especially acute on weekends when our newsroom is pressed for staff and the stories available are not what I would politely call – earthshaking.

Even at the best of times in a small country such as this where most stations run on shoestring budgets the news is usually 80% based on press conferences and what government is ostensibly doing. Because of the constraints and the rather tricky libel and slander laws these stories usually are what passes for news. In a larger, more developed country there is the chance to do investigative pieces, hurl innuendoes around with gay abandon and generally find a wider palette with which to work but here we are rather stuck within a fairly rigid framework. This is not the happiest state and we certainly try to put in the odd bit about HIV or other topical subjects but there are only so many around. I would also suggest that the in-depth sort of look at a subject is generally not what the public wants. Based on newspaper sales and general feedback it would seem viewers want who was killed, who is heading to jail and what politician is in the doghouse.

If we look at the recent attempts by government/Caribbean Airlines to purchase a private jet which by all accounts will cost a ton of money and be primarily used for the benefit of the emperor apparent the limitations of our abilities as an industry become painfully clear. The reports in all media are primarily based on what the government/CA says and what the opposition says. Government speaks of the matter almost exclusively on on official platforms and any attempts to ask pertinent questions about the cost/benefit analysis of the purchase are brushed off as being “confidential” business matters. The fact that the purchase is costing taxpayers  a figure North of $400 million plus we still have to pay to book the silly thing are mere piffles apparently. The latest news indicates the deal with Bombardier may be scrapped in favour of leasing a jet..who knows what will go on with that deal? There is no point in even discussing the strange explanation that we were paying $10 million US more for the jet because someone else wanted it – sort of like a Wii on eBay at Xmas time I guess. Apparently with the US economy in a downhill slalom there are still dedicated buyers who will pay millions more for a jet from what is , it seems, the only executive jet manufacturer on the planet ( it seems Learjets and Gulfstreams are passe).

Back to the news in general. When filling 30 minutes of news time it is sometimes a matter of just finding things to supplement the actual news that rears its head on that day. Generally speaking the important stories go in the bit before the first commercial that we call the “first section” and the other “stuff” goes after the break and before the regional news. Sometimes, a really good story ends up in the swampy ground of the second section because of editing time constraints or waiting for a last minute addition to the story but generally the section is populated by sloppy seconds. These can be ho-hum stories that are not really of any great import or even leftover stories that weren’t able to be aired the day before or even days before. Is this news? Probably not but the exigencies of filling air time can lead us to adopt the attitude that if some of our viewers never saw it before it is probably news to them.

Now from a marketing point of view it would make sense to pepper the duration of the newscast with hot stories to keep the viewers tuned in. This would lead to the US style of saying “ coming up later in the newscast ..a baby killer could be in your neighbourhood..stay tuned” but sadly this doesn’t work too well here. It might work if you are 100% sure nobody else has the story  but otherwise you will be scooped by the other news houses who place the same story higher in the news thus making you look stupid for placing it at the end of the second section to keep viewers glued.

I could talk of how we choose the order of stories but that is material for another blog entry.

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March 8, 2008

Bring down the power

Never a place to shy away from ridiculous controversies that manage to obfuscate real issues T&T is currently embroiled in a tempest over the planned purchase of a Bombardier private jet. It all started with jet envy when the Jamaican PM at the time Portia Simpson Miller paid us a visit and arrived in a private jet. Our PM looked most perturbed at the time that he hadn’t thought of such a nifty means of transportation. The look on his face expressed such pain and envy that only the blindest of observers could fail to notice. I suspect the plan was hatched at that point but not too much later Manning took a “demo” flight on a private jet courtesy Bombardier. This caused a bit of a flare up from the opposition benches but they were assured that it was just a joy ride and nothing should be read into it.

Cut to the present. We now learn that Caribbean Airlines which takes its orders from the government is buying a Bombardier jet using $60 million of government aka taxpayers money so that they can “make it available to the regional market”. Uh huh. Naturally, Mr. Manning has said he will need to make a great deal of use of it for his ACS duties etc. You would think he was conducting shuttle diplomacy rather than just wasting time on a number of make work projects for associations that will eventually accomplish nothing. The opposition and several other interest groups are now up in arms about this planned development. I suspect they are happy because after Caribbean Airlines backed down on their ill-fated plan to place the PNM party symbol on the tails of their fleet it left them with no obvious distracting subject to concentrate on. The government is literally spending billions on numerous mega projects all of which are, no doubt ,riddled with corruption but it is more interesting to argue about a plane. Such is the nature of Trinidad politics and our national attention span.

The rule of the game is if you are mucking up royally and not addressing a myriad of social problems or ensuring that all citizens have equality under the law then by all means waste a small amount of money in a really ostensible way. It is the political equivalent of a farmer throwing some feed to the pigs so he can sneak into the pen and do whatever he has to do.

I suppose now that he has the Moorish architectural monstrosity that only someone with no taste could love as a residence he needs to be able to ferry visitors in so they can play twister or whatever in the grand ballroom.


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