Marcia Forbes: Media Matters, Jamaica 50 and London 2012

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - August 2, 2012

By Marcia Forbes, PhD
CJ Contributor

The Vocal Minority & Jamaica 50

There has been an outcry from those who perhaps represent the vocal minority that the Jamaica 50 celebrations cannot only be about “jump-up,” “skin-out,” “wine up we body.” We argue that it must also showcase our capacity as a people to stop, reflect and strategize.

After all, the past 50 years, while having achieved some successes, have also laid the foundation for numerous challenges in moving Jamaica forward on a growth path. A “freeness mentality” pervades our society and productivity levels are dismal.

The Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) of the UWI appears to be leading the way for this thoughtful process through its 50/50 Conference, themed, “Critical Reflections in a Time of Uncertainty.” Speakers will span the region and include the Diaspora.

Importantly the conference comes August 20 – 24, after the noise of Jamaica’s Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympics, albeit before Trinidad & Tobago’s Independence Day Jubilee bacchanal.

This SALISES Conference promises to “critically explore the entire half-century independence experience, its successes and failures, its best and worst practices as well as the possible alternative directions for the next fifty years (SALISES’ website).” This is fine and good.

Missing Youths

My concern is that, looking at the presenters for the SALISES Conference, not one is below 60 years of age. If so, only by a short year or two, and that would be the two females, Diane Abott and Professor Verene Shepherd. I lie. Andrew Holness is there and he’s not yet 40. My point is made though — six old men, two not-so-old women and one comparatively young man.

How, though, can we plan “alternative directions for the next 50 years” and exclude those 30 years and under, who, we are told, comprise 60 per cent of our population?

Isn’t there even one 30 years or under who could make the mark? I rest my case on this, however, as I truly applaud SALISES’ efforts, even if not their focus on such mature presenters to the exclusion of youth. The conference will be hosted at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel and I won’t miss it. Neither should you, trusting that there will be live streaming. This matter of streaming brings me to media matters.

Traditional Media versus Social Media & the Olympics

Over the past days, I’ve had reason to contemplate the evolution of media in Jamaica. First, because I will be one of the panellists discussing this as a part of the Jamaica 50 Conversations, then because of the saga over NBC and its seven-hour delayed broadcast and, more recently, the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica’s Notice of Breach of Licence to CVM TV for its inadequacies in transmitting the Olympics for which that station has exclusive TV rights for Jamaica.

Media has evolved, models must change! Admittedly, NBC continues to pull huge audiences to its delayed broadcast. However, scathing comments via social media have not redounded to the station’s image/brand with hashtags such as #NBCFail and #NCBSucks. Allegations of getting Twitter to suspend the account of the chief complaining journalist has not endeared many to NBC. As I wrote this, news came via Twitter that the account has been reinstated.

Meanwhile, we wait to see how CVM TV will fare with the Broadcasting Commission. Like NBC, CVM TV has been taking licks and ridicule via social media for failing to measure up. The new expectation of media is based on the “Whatever, Whenever, Wherever” Model with time-shifting as well as place-shifting. We want to watch/read/see whatever, whenever we want to and wherever we want to. While the notion of prime time may not be dead (as yet), it is rapidly being eroded.


London 2012 has been billed as “socialympics” – the Social Media Olympics. Facebook’s “Explore London 2012,” Twitter’s deal with NBC Sports to carry a curated feed of the most popular tweets from athletes, volunteers and other participants and the International Olympics Committee’s (IOC) attempt at a Social Media Policy all point to the evolution of media beyond merely radio, TV and newspapers, as we once knew them.

While the IOC struggles to appear social media savvy, those affected struggle with its four-page social media policy, described as confusing and contradictory by some. Still, its efforts show recognition of changing times. After all, the IOC does have over three quarter million Twitter followers and about 3 million Facebook friends to keep happy.

As for us in Jamaica, many are reflecting how, having been colonized by the British, we are now presenting such a wonderful Olympics 2012 for our colonizer. While we do not expect any “freeness” for this, kind gestures of appreciation would not be rejected.

Dr Marcia Forbes, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is a media specialist, the co-owner of multimedia production company Phase 3 Productions Ltd and former Permanent Secretary in Jamaica’s Ministry of Mining and Telecommunications and later the Ministry of Energy and Mining. She is the author of Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica and the recently-released Streaming: Social Media, Mobile Lifestyles (click below for more information).

Follow Dr Marcia Forbes on Twitter: @marciaforbes

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