At a news conference at the station’s Curepe office yesterday, owner Errol Fabien shot down talk that the station was ready to fold over its debts with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) and disclosed that Flow had gifted the station with the money needed to stay on air.
Thanking Flow for its generosity and crying shame on the State for failing for 13 years to support Gayelle, Fabien also announced that, as of August 13, 2016, Gayelle will broadcast exclusively with Flow as far as large cable providers go.
The station will also continue to be run by a handful of community-based providers.
Fabien said he was blanked by Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi when he sought Government’s support but Flow stepped up to save the station with haste.
Fabien’s praise for Flow is in contrast to criticisms from the public this week over that provider’s decision to increase its rates, which the company attributed to rising operational costs.
Blanked by ministers in a lengthy, emotional address on the matter, Fabien said the TATT had been somewhat of a ‘friend’ to the station but the Authority also had its job to do.
After being notified by the TATT last month that Gayelle had to pay its debt of $915,000 or cease broadcast, Fabien said he was heartened to be granted an audience with Al-Rawi and Cuffie, respectively.
The meetings ended in disappointment, however, as Fabien said he was told by Al-Rawi that the bill would have to be paid or the station shut down and by Cuffie that there “nothing he could do”.
Cable providers carrying Gayelle were then ordered by the TATT to cut their feed and Fabien said he was hurt that only Flow was courteous enough to contact him personally and query the situation.
Flow pledged support and informed Fabien that it would keep Gayelle on air for as long as possible.
In a stunning move, however, the cable company, after being told of Gayelle’s financial bind, returned to Fabien within 24 hours with a cheque for $1 million.
Fabien said he expressed thanks to Flow and was told, simply, “We believe in you.”
He noted that Flow has never hesitated to sponsor Gayelle and that First Citizens has been a loyal advertiser with the station.
That pretty much sums up the support that Gayelle has received over the years, Fabien said, adding that in eight years, Government has spent $15,000 out of its multi-million-dollar budget to advertise with Gayelle.
He said he believed it was “wrong” and an “abomination” for the State to own and operate a commercial television station, which can be kept afloat with taxpayers’ dollars when it runs at a loss.
Gayelle not sexy enough Fabien said he did not believe there was a vendetta against Gayelle or a conspiracy to close it down but rather, the station was just “not sexy enough” to warrant interest.
Gayelle airs only local content and Fabien said local and indigenous culture was typically neglected in this country.
He was critical of cable provider Digicel, saying that company expressed interest in airing Gayelle but informed him that it was the company’s policy not to pay for local content.
He declined to work with Digicel and yesterday called out the company, saying he was deeply disappointed with its policy.
Fabien purchased the station five years ago from other shareholders and decided to keep its mandate to support local. He said yesterday he is still paying for the station and owes just under 50 per cent.
He said he will continue to seek support and called on corporate T&T to support Gayelle and other indigenous media but vowed to close the door on the State, saying he has given up on hope of getting support from that area.
And in a statement following the Gayelle press conference, Flow stated:
“We’ve always been a supporter of Gayelle and development and exposition of local content, it is one of the primary pillars of our sponsorship policy. We are happy to support Gayelle in its development across the Caribbean region, and this is reinforced by our support of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival and local films. Errol has been a friend to Flow for many years and we will be continuing our support to him and to Gayelle for the foreseeable future.”