An Overview of the Trinidad and Tobago Media Landscape

There are three daily newspapers in Trinidad and Tobago: the Newsday, the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express. Each daily has an associated Sunday newspaper, and publishes several supplements and magazine sections. There are two weeklies, the Friday Mirror and Weekend Mirror, and one monthly, the TT Review. Each newspaper has separate, private ownership.

The domestic media landscape includes several radio and television broadcasters. There are thirty-eight licensed radio broadcasters (Appendix One), and nine licensed Free-to-Air (television) broadcasters, which are: Advance Community Television Network Limited; CCN Television (owned by One Caribbean Media Limited, publishers of the Trinidad Express and Sunday Express newspapers); CNC3 (owned by Guardian Media Limited, publishers of the Trinidad Guardian and Sunday Guardian newspapers); CNMG (state-owned), Gayelle Limited; Mohan Jaikaran (World Indian Network Television or WINTV); Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; Synergy Entertainment Network Limited; and Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. IETV Limited is the only licensed cable broadcaster. In addition, there are eight authorized providers of subscription television broadcasting services (Appendix Two).

One emerging evolutionary trend is the growing online presence of Trinidad and Tobago mainstream media. All three daily newspapers have established official websites with regularly updated, full-text digital versions of selected published stories, and real-time news updates. Likewise, several radio and television broadcasters have established websites with live streams and programme listings. Some local media companies have gone one step further, maintaining a social media presence, soliciting online feedback from readers, viewers and listeners, and even inviting amateur online content submissions to be considered for inclusion in news and other programmes. In some cases, listeners and viewers can actually contribute via voice or text messaging to live programmes using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software, instant messaging services or social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter.

There are now also several exclusively web-based news sites and blogs that re-publish content from the official websites of the daily newspapers and host online chat forums in which users exchange perspectives on published stories and related issues. These chat forums can be either open or membership-only, with username/password required for access. In some cases, professional media practitioners from Trinidad and Tobago are involved in maintaining these sites and blogs. In other cases, they maintain blogs of their own. (Appendix Three) shows a partial listing of bloggers from Trinidad and Tobago.) In this way, the Internet has provided a virtual space for interaction between traditional media and non-professional mediators.

Article Four, subsection (k) of the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution (1976) guarantees “freedom of the press”. There are no other constitutional provisions or guarantees relating to media. By law, defamed parties can sue for libel or slander in the civil courts, and no criminal prosecution can proceed against any person responsible for the publication of a newspaper for any libel published therein without the sanction of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) is a converged regulatory body incorporated by the Telecommunications Act of 2001 (amended in 2004). TATT exercises governance over the broadcasting sector and is also responsible for the regulation of the telecommunications sector.

The operation of radio and television broadcasting is governed by TATT through a system of concessions and licenses.  A concession is granted by the Minister of Public Administration to authorise the operation of a public telecommunications network and/or the provision of any public telecommunications service or broadcasting service. An application for a concession must be submitted to, and evaluated by, the Authority before a recommendation is made to the Minister to grant the concession. A license is granted by the Authority to authorise the operation or use of any radiocommunication service or any radiotransmitting equipment, including that on board any ship, aircraft or other vessel in the territorial waters or airspace of Trinidad and Tobago.

TATT has authorised two operators to provide public mobile telecommunications services: Digicel and Bmobile. There are seven operators authorised to provide fixed domestic telecommunications services to the public: TSTT, Flow, ICNTT, TRICO, Computer Technologies Services Limited and RVR International Limited. After a Broadband Wireless Access auction held in 2008, the ability to provide fixed voice services using wireless technologies was granted to Green Dot, Telstar, Digicel and TSTT. TATT has authorized the following companies to provide Internet services directly to the public: Air Link Communications; Flow; Lisa Communications Limited; Open Telecom Limited; TSTT (Blink); Three Sixty Communications Limited; and Green Dot Limited. The following companies are authorized by TATT to provide telecommunication services and/or facilities, not directly to the public, but to service providers who make them available to the general public: Columbus Networks International Limited and Southern Caribbean Fibre Limited.

The print media are effectively self-regulated and the de facto enforcement of ethical standards remains largely voluntary. One of the advantages of a self-regulatory system is that rules drawn up by industry insiders are more likely to be respected by journalists than rules devised by any statutory regulators imposed by the State (Frost, 2000). One disadvantage, however, is that journalists are accountable to their own colleagues as much or more than they are to the public.

The main trade union for media workers is the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), whose membership includes workers employed at the GuardianExpress and Newsday newspapers, as well as TV6, and CNC3 television broadcasting companies. It is significant to note that workers at State-owned CNMG are not unionised.

Media-related practitioners have formed a number of professional organisations, many of which distribute annual awards and prizes. The major professional associations and organisations in the media-related industries are the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT), the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA), the Public Relations Association of Trinidad and Tobago (PRATT), the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC, Trinidad and Tobago Chapter), the Advertising Agencies Association of Trinidad and Tobago (AAATT), and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM).

There are several training and development pathways available for prospective and practising media professionals. Many tertiary level options are subsidised by the Trinidad and Tobago Government, under its Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme. Public education up to Year Five of the secondary level is free and compulsory, and Years Six and Seven, which are free but not compulsory, include a Communications Studies option. Formal training options are also available at post-secondary institutions such as the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) and higher education institutes such as The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the School of Business and Computer Studies (SBCS).

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