In 1962, when Jamaica celebrated its Independence, there was no television station to capture it. JBC, the Jamaica Broadcast Corporation was established in 1963.
JBC was the only television station until 1993 when CVM began broadcasting.
Programming was made up of news broadcasts, local musical performances, talk shows, old movies and foreign programs. Television broadcasting was not 24 hours a day; it came on in the late afternoon and usually went off by 11 pm.
The switch from black and white to colour came in 1975.
Considering history, economics, politics, culture, one would not expect the level of television in Jamaica to equal that of developed Western nations. However, in 2015 Jamaica does not achieve that reached in 1950s America.
The basic problem is not the absence nor presence of local programming, it is the incompetence and unprofessionalism of the television stations.
First, nothing starts ‘on time’. You can have the BBC on the radio at 7 pm, while waiting for TVJ, (the successor to JBC) to present the 7 o’clock news.
Usually, three minutes is the standard ‘soon come’ although sometimes it is even longer. Once can usually hear most of the BBC news before the cameras actually hit the presenters on TVJ.
This lack of time sense means one can not, for example, accurately record a programme for later viewing.
Secondly, there is no real schedule. Viewing the websites of TVJ or CVM is illuminating.
On cvmtv.com a program airing at 9 pm called “Scandal” is listed. “Scandal” has not been aired since the fall of 2014.
TVJ (televisionjamaica.com) has many empty spaces in their schedule and fudges by not naming a program. It resorts to categorisation: ‘comedy’, ‘drama’, ‘movie’ so one has no idea what is going to be presented.
The idea of posting an up to date television guide, even on line, seems beyond the capability of the stations. (Those in America who buy a T.V. Guide published a week in advance must be laughing).
A prospective viewer must keep a ‘mental’ schedule of what will be presented each evening, though there is no guarantee that just because ‘Empire’ is to be aired at 9:30 pm on TVJ on Tuesday it will be aired at that time on that day.
Thirdly, the splicing of commercials into the middle of the action of a program, is standard. No one who works for a station pays very much attention to what is being aired, and will pop in the commercial before a line being spoken has completed.
Fourthly, the lack of understanding of ‘Prime Time’ remains.
TVJ; in its previous incarnation of JBC, did have some slight knowledge that between 7 – 11 p.m. was ‘Television Time’.
In Western nations, (dealing with general stations) the news is broadcast between 5 – 7 p.m. to leave that four hour period of prime time available.
In Jamaica, TVJ runs its so-called news from 7 – 8:30, CVM from 8 – 9. Yes, this is ridiculous, and anyone involved in broadcasting knows this is the time for the P.G. show the kids watch before bed.
This is why most Jamaicans who have television sets have cable, since no one much watches local television.
As to the local shows, they are rather embarrassing, and one can not talk about “Third World”, when South Africa can present an excellent soap, ‘Generations’, which is aired on Sunday afternoon from 2 to 4 pm, or India’s contribution of two soaps which are of very high standard.
Few people actually watch local television. Yes, when shows like ‘Scandal’ or ‘Empire’ are airing, people do tune in, but most Jamaicans opt for cable.
One can bang their gums about ‘local’, ‘nationalism’ and other slogans, but America and England produce first class programmes. They are well funded, professionally done, and take awards all over the world.
However it is not the lack of local programmes that makes television in Jamaica so pathetic.
Let us glance at recent events. The Oscars are not broadcast in Jamaica. The last beauty pageant that was aired was interrupted for the lottery draw, which apparently, could not be postponed or rescheduled.
Can you imagine a live beauty pageant, suddenly in a split screen, while on the right side you get to see the Lotto numbers being selected?
I shut off my television as that happened, since the pageant was that unimportant and I don’t buy Lotto tickets since I know the result, I lost.
This unprofessionalism is what makes television in Jamaica so repulsive.