The planned new government television channel is awaiting a single piece of equipment and some staff members before it will be up and running.
According to copies of invoices released in response to a Freedom of Information request, the purchase and installation of the rest of the equipment cost $227,345, including consultation fees and other expenses, and the Office of the Premier has also budgeted a further $186,000 for three staff positions, bringing the total to $413,345.
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush first announced the plan to launch a government TV channel during a public meeting in April 2011, saying it would deliver the government’s message to the public without being filtered by the media.
The 24-hour Cayman Islands Government Television, or CIGTV, which will be broadcast on WestStar’s channel 20, could be ready to begin operation as early as next month, according to Charles Glidden, Premier Bush’s press secretary.
Mr. Glidden, who has been tasked with creating the new channel, said he had hoped the channel would be ready last month, but there was a delay in the installation of a microwave antennae, which would be erected on the roof of the Government Administration Building in George Town.
He added that a hiring freeze on civil service staff could also mean that all three staff positions on the channel may not be filled.
“We thought we were going to be finished with the installation in early August. We were making preparations to broadcast the budget and throne speech, but we ran into a problem [with the microwave antennae],” Mr. Glidden said.
The antennae that was delivered did not work, so Mr. Glidden is awaiting the arrival of a new antennae, which will deliver the signal for the channel.
The government has already installed broadcast equipment in the Government Administration Building, within an existing control room on the second floor Government Information Services conference room.
Three TV cameras have also been installed in the Legislative Assembly building so that parliamentary meetings can be aired and broadcast over CIGTV.
“Next month, we hope to have the signal working. As far as getting local programming, it will probably take us through October,” said Mr. Glidden, who added that the first programmes to be aired on the new channel were likely to be live and repeated broadcasts of Legislative Assembly meetings.
Mr. Glidden said other programming would likely include regular interviews with the premier and government ministers. Mr. Glidden said those interviews might be presented by whoever is hired as producer or that he may present them himself. Prior to becoming the premier’s press secretary, Mr. Glidden was a news reporter and presenter at CITN.
The channel may also air archived footage supplied by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, educational programmes and religious content, as well as a “bulletin board” where community announcements and weather information would be displayed.
“We’ll have access to Cayman National Cultural Foundation archives as a source for cultural programming ... We will also have religious programming and have been in contact with the Ministers Association and received a positive response from them,” Mr. Glidden said.
He added that local independent producers could also use the new channel to air their original productions, saying: “We have a number of people who have done video productions, but don’t have a vehicle to show them. They can submit them to us and we will air them, as long as they are within the parameters ... If they are of good quality and the content is not offensive, we would give them the opportunity to air their work.”
There are also plans to include informational and educational programmes and children’s programmes.
Although the new equipment is capable of filming in high definition, channel 20 is not a high-definition channel, so the broadcasts will be in normal quality definition. Mr. Glidden said he hoped that the output could eventually be viewed in high definition.
He said he was also still awaiting confirmation of whether three posts of an executive producer, video specialist and operations supervisor would be filled in light of the civil service hiring freeze.
Mr. Glidden said the salaries as budgeted – $73,200 for the producer and $56,400 for each of the other two posts – are not necessarily what would be paid, as the posts for the producer and operations supervisor had not yet been graded by the Portfolio of the Civil Service. The salary for the video production specialist, which is an existing post in the civil service, would depend on the experience and background of the person hired.
“Also, even though the posts are in the budget, most likely the full complement of staff will not be hired due to restrictions on hiring,” Mr. Glidden said.
The government has worked with companies in the United States and the Cayman Islands to source and install the equipment and also hired consultants from the US on the project.
Mr. Glidden said GIS staff would give some support to the new channel and that WestStar TV would also assist, if necessary. The GIS conference room at the Government Administration Building will double as a studio, where a portable blue screen is in place.