by Farouk A. Muhammad
00:00:00 Hour August 31, 1962 the two-island State of Trinidad and Tobago was born. At the same time ttt, Trinidad and Tobago Television was inaugurated and like the two islands which made up this new nation, there were two channels to transmit the service, ttt- Channels 2 & 13.
These two events, the Birth of the Nation and the inauguration of television, were celebrated as one, with the Flag Raising Ceremony and the Playing of the National Anthem broadcast live to the new Nation by ttt-Trinidad & Tobago Tv. A wonderful national gift which was the start of a new era in the history of broadcasting in the country.
Television was unknown to the country; the task of setting up a service and developing a business was the challenge of a small group and this is their story of how it all happened.
It is the intention to get as many as possible of first hand accounts of “The Pioneers” of this new industry. Many have already passed away, and this makes it more important that this era of the history of broadcasting be recorded in “first person reporting” by the pioneers, so that future generations will get a sense of the emotions and the challenges of the coming of the Information Age in Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad and Tobago Television was the brain child of the Canadian business-man Lord Roy Thompson. The Thompson Organization formed an alliance with British Rediffusion, CBS-USA and the Trinidad and Tobago Government to form a business to set-up and operate a television station to serve the two islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The impetus of this business came from Lord Roy Thompson who as a media magnate was doing the same in the newly independent countries around the world as they gained their independence from the United Kingdom.
The Thompson Organization already had a foot hold in Trinidad with holdings in the daily newspaper “The Trinidad Guardian” and in one of the two commercial radio stations, “610 Radio-Guardian”. The other partners: Rediffusion was also established in the country with the ownership of “Radio Trinidad”. CBS from the USA was invited in as a minority partner and the Government was a participant to protect the foreign investment and to gain local participation. The shares were distributed initially as follows, Thompson Organization 50%; Rediffusion 30%, CBS 10% and the Governmnment of Trinidad and Tobago 10%.
It should be noted that there was no regulatory governance to broadcasting and the tv station was allowed to operate by the granting of a licence issued by the Government and administered by a designated Cabinet Minister. The business of TTT was under the direction of a Board of Directors reflecting the ownership with the General Manager having a seat. The set-up Management consited of non-nationals who visited the country to build a plant, install equipment, recruit and train local staff.
The initial operational Management of the tv station was a combination of foreign and local indivudals . The General Manager was Ronald F. Goodsman from Rediffusion, UK; Head of Programming, Barry Gordon who was a Canadian who worked for the Thompson Organization. The Chief Engineer was Jack Elvin from Rediffusion and the Head of Accounts, Norman Hartley was also connected to Rediffusion. The only local Department Head was the head of the sales, Neville Welch.
Television is Programming. The other departments, Sales, Engineering and Accounts, have their own discipline and while an understanding of the business of television is required, the programming department reflects the nature of the industry, shapes the image of the business and creates the impact of the service. This was a new area for the local staff and the task of making this happen was entrusted to Barry Gordon. He had to translate the concepts of television to a indivudals who had no idea of what the medium was all about and at the same time develop a harmonious working group because without this singular element, television does not succeed.
The newly independent country was being introduced to an industry with which, by necessity, all employees had to work a single unit regardless of race, religion or social class. This, in many ways, reflected the spirit of the Motto and National Anthem of the country of discipline, production and tolerance and where each has an equal place.
“TTT- The Early Years” reflects the euphoria of this new business, the challenges of television production, the development of a viable business and takes the story to the period of full local ownership, management and profitability. The business became viable and successful and by the end of the seventies, the tv station had paid off all debts and was returning a profit to the new owner, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago or one can say, the tax payers of the Nation.
This is ttt’s story by some of its pioneers, one of enterprise and success by Management and Staff. It is significant to note that at the inception of the business of television two important senior appointments were recruited locally, first the Head of Sales, Neville Welch and then the Senior News Editor, Lloyd G.Rohlehr.
The title of this compilation comes from the first panel show of the service, “Time To Talk” and incorporates the call letters of the television station, ttt. The expectation is that these stories will be distributed via the web, on DVD and in a book and the efforts of those who so ardously contributed and made a success of the business of television during the pioneering years will not be forgotten.
* * *