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Media Monitor: NIF, NoF, Nuff; can Government really bank on OCM?

If you watched the TV6 7pm News on Thursday, then you should have a clear idea of how deep in the doodoo our media are. And since One Caribbean Media (OCM) is one of the five companies on whose entire or partial assets the National Investment Fund is “collateralised”—not my word; I am beholden to TV6’s expert—we have to wonder about how big a risk we’re really taking if we do decide to put our money where the media group’s mouths are.

Thursday’s newscast was, not to put too fine a point on it, a comedy of errors. Now if you are a TV channel, you’re probably thinking, nothing is wrong with comedy. But you’re wrong. Nothing is right with comedy when your audience is laughing at you. Just ask CNC3 about the reaction to the way its World Cup coverage was organised. People have been calling it “Dumas ole mas.”

Photo: Minister of Agriculture Clarence Rambharat enjoys himself during J’Ouvert celebrations in Rio Claro Carnival.

Unfairly, I think; after all, I know lots of people who like ole mas.

This time, it was not just the sports that carried errors. The big news of the day (as you could probably have guessed from the advertising envelope in which the Express came that morning) was the official launch of the Minister of Finance’s National Investment Fund.

You can invest at least $1000 in a five-, 12- or 20-year bond and get 4.5%, 5.7% and 6.6% respectively annual interest over the period. The collateral for these bonds is assets from “some of the country’s best performing companies,” among them, as already pointed out, OCM. But all of that is old hat, I suspect.

What we might have learned from TV6 on Thursday is the answer to this question: “What if Government does not have enough money to pay the principle?”

Frankly, I didn’t get the information; I was too busy adjusting to the entirely new idea that any money I invest in these bonds is my “principle.”

Poor Desha! She seemed so shell-shocked to discover it herself that, when the banking expert had answered the last question put to her, presumably in response to the teleprompter, Desha again read to no one in particular one of the questions the expert had already answered and, without waiting for a response which she knew would never come, moved right along to the next item of news.

Photo: TV6 anchor Desha Rambhajan.

Sans apology, it goes without saying.

It might be useful to spend some time discussing the special three-part “Traffic Troubles” feature which was so carefully prepared by TV6’s new workhorse, Nicholas Lutchmansingh. But the truth is that, apart from Trevor Townsend’s laughing revelation that no organisation—perhaps the Ministry of Works?—takes responsibility for traffic-related issues in Trinidad and Tobago, I could recall absolutely nothing of interest from the interminable feature.

The fault is clearly mine; my Gingko ran out last week and I have not yet refilled my prescription.

Then they broke for sports. Several things occurred to me during the loooooooooong ad break. The first is that TV6 should give serious consideration to shortening its 7pm news programme from an hour to half that.

Joshua Seemungal’s three-part “Silver Lining” feature of the previous week, designed, it seemed to me, to help fill the extra half-hour, had stretched my tolerance to the limit. And watching “Traffic Troubles” this week took almost as much out of me as actually experiencing traffic woes.

“Traffic Troubles,” I wanted to say out loud, “whoa!”

Of course, I’m not optimistic that the TV6 principals, oops, principles will even think about it. After all, it’s not about us poor viewers but about the rich advertisers. I mean, given the way the banks have been fleecing us all for years with their ubiquitous fees, one understands that First Citizens can afford repeated nightly ads during the news. I think if some musically-inclined citizen were to harmoniously conflate Sparrow’s “Good Citizens” and “Robbery with V,” it’d be a big hit—at least with those of us who have opted to have our bank put us first.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago calypso legend Slinger “The Mighty Sparrow” Francisco.
(Courtesy Jayblessed)

But, pray tell, how long has the ad for Bradford, “the premiere (sic) men’s shop,” which talks about “mens wear” and “Grand Bazzar,” been a prime time staple?

And whether it be ‘jubjub, power mint, Steups, Butternut or NutKrak’r, can you imagine how many sweets you have to sell, hoss, to be able to pay for several prime time ads during the news every day of the week?

So Joel Villafana eventually returned with the sports. Let me say that these days I am just a little more prepared to be forgiving of the local triumvirate—Vinod Narwani included—since I heard the excellent English World Cup commentator make two booboos.

The first was when he said that some team was “reticent to attack,” which makes no sense since “reticent” and “reluctant” are not synonyms. The second was more telling. Had a different team, for example, France, been playing when he made his error, he might have opened himself up to charges of being racist. In the event, he twice referred to England’s “Congo line” for the corners, which is either a non-Freudian slip or a rare genuine lacuna.

Anyway, Villafana had already got my hackles up earlier in the week in reporting on the TTTTA issue involving Dexter St Louis. Both he and Serjio DuFour repeatedly referred to the “arbitrary panel,” and the phrase even appeared in the written on-screen headline. DuFour, I want to believe in JV’s slipstream, had also murdered French tennis player Gilles Simon’s name.

Photo: England captain and forward Harry Kane (far right) and his teammates prepare their “conga line” set piece routine during the World Cup third place play off against Belgium on 14 July 2018.
(Copyright FIFA/Getty)

So on Wednesday I waited to see if there would be an apology. In vain. But although the sports anchor twice managed to deprive the TTTTA of one of their T’s, they got “arbitration panel” right every time.

On Thursday, JV repeated his recurrent error with the first half of “Shimron Hetmyer.” However, perhaps more mindful of his propensity for involuntary nominal manslaughter, he did not mention any name in his introduction of the Wimbledon story.

Serena Williams had defeated Germany’s Julia Goerges (pronounced Gur-gis by tennis commentators). 6-2, 6-4. DuFour read what the ticker tape told us, that Williams had beaten “Gorges” in straight sets to seal her place in the weekend’s final.

Friday’s gentlemen’s semis were contested between Kevin Anderson and John Isner and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Relief! Even the TV6 pair could hardly mess that up.

But honestly, do you know what I think those in charge of the NIF will do about all that sloppiness? NoF!

Nuff said.

Photo: One Caribbean Media (OCM) logo.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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5 comments

  1. I quite honestly agree that the newscast in its hour-long format is long-winded, and at times, tiresome and flat, but the irony is so is the article written by Mr Best.
    Once again, another seemingly arrogant and bitter relic of a deluded and overly-romanticized generation can do nothing but bash. Instead of using his supposed superior intellect to seek and provide meaningful solutions, he castigates in a shallow manner.
    So Mr Best is no different from the politicians running this country. He’s no different from the prominent businessmen in this country, and he’s certainly no different from many of these former journalists who have a tremendously overstated sense of importance. Some call them educated fools.
    Why is media in a rough state of affairs? It’s because of people who think like him. People who can’t let go; people who desperately need to feel important in their latter years to feed their pathetic egos, and people who blame those who have to operate in a failed system, yet they created it.
    My advice to him is simple, and it applies to the majority of politicians, businessmen, public-service leaders, media managers, professors and consultants, thank you for your service, but it’s time to hang it up. Your message does not connect to the generations of today, and your message is largely responsible for the frustration of 99% of the country’s youth.
    Poor performance throughout all levels of society today is present because of the mismanagement by members of your generation; write on that. After all, it is only they who could possibly enjoy this prehistoric form of writing that is nothing but a desperate attempt to remain relevant.

    • Earl Best

      Thanks for the advice, Joshua. I’ll take the time to reflect on it.
      I have a piece of advice for you, offered in an entirely different spirit: get a read of the book review published here on Wired868 today. It may help you to understand the very real advantages of the medium in which you operate AND the limitations of the millenial audience to which YOU, as a professional, are bound to address yourself.

  2. I quite honestly agree that the newscast in its hour-long format is long-winded, and at times, tiresome and flat, but the irony is so is the article written by Mr Best.
    Once again, another seemingly arrogant and bitter relic of a deluded and overly-romanticized generation can do nothing but bash. Instead of using his supposed superior intellect to seek and provide meaningful solutions, he castigates in a shallow manner.
    So Mr Best is no different from the politicians running this country. He’s no different from the prominent businessmen in this country, and he’s certainly no different from many of these former journalists who have a tremendously overstated sense of importance. Some call them educated fools.
    Why is media in a rough state of affairs? It’s because of people who think like him. People who can’t let go; people who desperately need to feel important in their latter years to feed their pathetic egos, and people who blame those who have to operate in a failed system, yet they created it.
    My advice to him is simple, and it applies to the majority of politicians, businessmen, public-service leaders, media managers, professors and consultants, thank you for your service, but it’s time to hang it up. Your message does not connect to the generations of today, and your message is largely responsible for the frustration of 99% of the country’s youth.
    Poor performance throughout all levels of society today is present because of the mismanagement by members of your generation; write on that. After all, it is only they who could possibly enjoy this prehistoric form of writing that is nothing but a desperate attempt to remain relevant.

  3. Dear Mr Best,

    Excellent and funny comments!!
    Here are my thoughts:
    I would not recommend that anyone purchase the NIF bonds if they are not sure about what they are buying AND if they have not read bond’s prospectus AND discussed anything they are not sure about with a financial advisor.
    Google is of tremendous help to those who are unsure about the basic terms used in the marketing of this product. Terms such as bond, interest, dividends, coupon, maturity, sinking fund etc.
    If the banking expert did not answer in an adequate manner, the question “What if Government does not have enough money to pay the principle?” let me give it a shot:
    1) Based on 2017 audited financial statements, NIF will receive $370 million in dividends from its five constituent companies;
    2) Based on its interest commitments—4.50% on five-year bonds, 5.70% on 12-year bonds and 6.60% on 20-year bonds—NIF is obliged to pay out $225 million a year to the bondholders;
    3) That leaves NIF with a $145 million surplus of at least every year, which will be placed into a sinking fund in order to repay the principal (not principle) to bondholders.
    Now, since the first principal payment on the five-year bond is expected to be $1.2 billion in August 2023, and $145 million over five years is $725 million, there is likely to be a $475 million shortfall between what is in the sinking fund and NIF’s first principal obligation.
    How will that shortfall be made up?
    1) One imagines that the sinking fund will be invested in long-term assets, such as local equity and bonds, which will earn both dividends or interest and experience capital appreciation;
    2) As the Government owns 100% of TGU, one of the five components of the NIF, the dividend payment from this entity can be adjusted upwards;
    3) There is an expectation that some of the holders of the five-year bonds will want to roll-over their investments into new NIF bonds
    4) GORTT may place new investments into the NIF, such as Methanol Holdings International Ltd
    5) If the first four do not raise enough money to cover the shortfall, GORTT will be required to top-up the sinking fund;
    6) As a last resort, GORTT may be required to sell shares from one of the five constituents of NIF.
    Secondly, the NIF bonds are an INVESTMENT and there is absolutely no investment that is risk free.
    But, when it comes to money and one’s personal financial management, one must always assess the risk of keeping money in a deposit account versus making an investment.
    Let’s take as an example two secondary school principals who retired in 2018 with lumpsums of $200,000 and an annual pension.
    • Principal A decides to play it safe and decides to invest his lumpsum in one of T&T’s income fund or a fixed-deposit, which he intends to roll over every year. Both the income fund and the fixed deposit are investments just like the NIF bond;
    • Principal B, who reads up the NIF prospectus and gets advice, decides to to invest her lumpsum in the 12-year NIF bond.
    Principal A can expect at most $2,000 from his investment, which assumes a return on investment or interest rate of 1%, which is very generous.
    Principal B is assured of receiving $11,400 a year in two tranches in August and February every year from her investment, based on the 5.7% annual interest.
    The supreme irony of Principal A’s position is that the mutual fund company or bank is certain to take his $200,000 and pool it with other risk-averse people and invest in the 12-year bond. This will earn the institution the 5.7% return on their investment, while they continue to pay Principal A 1% or less.
    Would you rather be Principal A or Principal B?

    Regard

    Anthony Wilson