Symon De Nobriga

LEAD ROLE: Communications Minister Symon De Nobriga speaks during his contribution to the budget debate yesterday in the House of Representatives at the Red House in Port of Spain.

—Photo courtesy The Office of The Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago

Covid-19 has helped State station TTT to increase its viewership and to play a more critical role in the information landscape.

And the station plans to take a lead role in filling the content void created by the absence of a traditional Carnival celebration in 2021, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Communications, Symon De Nobriga, said yesterday as he contributed to the budget debate in the House of Representatives.

De Nobriga said in fiscal 2020, TTT “rose to the occasion, particularly at the onset of Covid-19. The nation turned to TTT as its reliable source of Government information to receive timely and accurate updates and guidelines. To date, over 350 hours of content have been produced and aired.”

He said TTT moderated all critical Government news conferences and continues to work closely with its line ministry to manage the dissemination of Government-produced content.

He said TTT Ltd provided a “home” for the Ministry of Health Covid-19 news conferences, which provide updates which are critical in the fight to stay informed and control the virus spread. Furthermore, with the closure of schools, the Ministry of Education, using TTT, delivered the curriculum through SEA TIME, which saw teachers teaching in the studio and the creation of educational content for broadcast.

The programme, which initially targeted SEA pupils, was expanded to include content for other age groups via the Open Classroom sessions, De Nobriga said.

He said TTT also worked with the Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Education, Innovation and Energy to develop virtual lessons which were aired twice weekly.

The minister said TTT, in support of local content, also premiered numerous features including the film Cutlass; 1970 remembering a Revolution; A Child of Two Worlds (which told the story of a Canadian artist who came to Trinidad in search of her father); Women Making a Difference—profiles on women who reshaped T&T; From Captives to Citizens, a chronicle of the journey of the enslaved told by Dr Rita Pemberton and This is Us, an Independence feature.

De Nobriga said for 2021 a budget of $3 million has been allocated to the strategic redevelopment of TTT as it deepens its commitment to bring relevant content.

He said in 2021, TTT will work with the line ministry, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, to fill the void created by the absence of traditional Carnival.

TTT will also work closely with the Film Company of Trinidad and Tobago to “cement itself in the creative sector ecosystem”, he said.

He added that the company will play an integral role in developing creative content to support initiatives of the Ministry of Tourism, Tourism Trinidad and the Tobago Tourism Agency to the nation as well as to the diaspora, via its online platform.

De Nobriga said he would be working with Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy to bring further attention to the issue of Gender Based Violence.

Clutter of information 

De Nobriga said with 36 radio stations, a multiplicity of TV stations, a handful of newspapers and numerous cable stations, information about Government activities can be lost.

“Throw in, if you will, the myriad of keyboard warriors, that social media has given a voice and one can immediately envision the mind-boggling levels of information, sometimes misinformation, thrown at citizens on a daily basis. It is in that clutter that the portfolio of Government communication finds itself located,” he said.

De Nobriga said Government was adamant that education remains a priority for the people.

He said the Government Printery was a key stakeholder in the dissemination of printed material on updates and preventive measures against Covid and was able to assist the Ministry of Education in meeting the urgent need for the printing of over 20,000 SEA Students Performance Reports and 20,000 SEA information booklets, in addition to 20,000 Covid-19 full-colour posters for schools.

De Nobriga praised the provision of library services by Nalis, especially in communities such as Beetham Gardens.

He said Nalis has gone increasingly for digitisation of library services and people with bmobile accounts can access Nalis websites and databases without their data being impacted. NALIS is also moving to ensure that its new facilities, such as those in Mayaro, Diego Martin and the Eric Williams Memorial Public Library, when completed, will contain spaces where one can “sit, have a cup of coffee and read” and where one can access other Government services through the TTConnect Kiosks.

De Nobriga said libraries and access to library services were now available at the Women’s Prison, Maximum Security Prison, Youth Training Centre, Remand Yard at Golden Grove, Eastern Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre at Santa Flora, Tobago Prison and Military-Led Academic Training Programme (MiLAT) and the MYPART training programme.

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