October 21, 2020

No radio, limited TV and minimal print coverage make series out of reach for many in the Caribbean

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Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 6.04.43 PMBy Haydn Gill FOX SPORTS From Adelaide Now

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS — There was a time when cricket tours by West Indies to Australia would attract media attention on a scale similar to an election for a government.

Not so these days.

A combination of factors — including West Indies’ drastic decline over the past decade, the prevailing global economic climate and a changing media landscape — has significantly dwindled the airtime and column inches that once dominated whenever a Caribbean side headed Down Under.

LIMITED , NO RADIO COVERAGE

From a broadcast perspective, the rights for the current series are held by Digicel SportsMax, a Jamaica-based sports cable television station with a subscriber base of less than a million throughout the Caribbean. This has led to a marked decrease in the number of viewers with the opportunity to watch international cricket from the comfort of their living room.

Radio coverage has taken an even more severe blow and the current tour is not being aired on a single station across the Caribbean in keeping with the trend for the greater part of the last decade. Radio has long played second fiddle to television and it comes as no surprise that radio stations are not keen on buying rights when there is no guarantee that they will attract advertising support to break even, far less make a profit.

 

Given the time difference between the Caribbean and Australia, Test matches are played during the night in the West Indies and the assumption is that advertisers fear that audiences won’t reach the numbers they are hoping for.

HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED

As a young boy growing up in the 1980s when live television coverage of international cricket was not yet available in the Caribbean, I made it my business to be glued to the radio at nights to follow coverage on the Australia Broadcasting Corporation whose commentary panels regularly included the familiar West Indian voices of Tony Cozier and Reds Perreira.

With Cozier and Perreira in the twilight of their careers, Fazeer Mohammed is the sole Caribbean representative in Australia. Mohammed is widely respected around the region as a quality broadcaster who offers an objective perspective and it was a surprise to say that least that he was banned — a decision that was quickly rescinded — from interviewing West Indies players towards the end of the second Test.

Darren Bravo walks off the MCG after being caught behind off the bowling of Peter Siddle.
FEWER NEWSPAPER REPORTS

Reduction of media coverage has also extended to newspapers, largely because of the absence of Cozier, fellow veteran journalist Tony Becca and internationally acclaimed cricket photographer Gordon Brooks. Cozier has covered more than 300 Tests for newspapers, television and radio, has been a regular visitor to the Australia since the 1960s and addition to hearing him behind the microphone, he has written for leading Caribbean newspapers in Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and Guyana.

Becca and Brooks have also made a few visits to Australia since the 1980s and the absence of the trio for this tour has denied Caribbean readers coverage through the eyes and lenses of first-hand accounts from a West Indian perspective. Newspaper reports, which now receive less column inches than in the past, are carried mainly from news agencies and other internet outlets which sometimes lack originality and often fail to offer the story behind the story.

RISE OF FOOTBALL, TRACK & FIELD

In years gone by, king cricket dominated the lion’s share of sports media output in the Caribbean but this has gradually changed, largely due to West Indies’ reversal of fortunes and the emergence of other Caribbean sports stars, primarily in track and field and football. It is against this background that media managers will not routinely budget hefty sums of money for cricket coverage but will also take into the account the growing demand for varied content. Even so, given the relatively long duration of a cricket tour, it is simply too expensive for media houses to send personnel half way round the world.

A dejected Kraigg Brathwaite slumps over his bat after being caught at first slip off the bowling of Nathan Lyon.
IMPACT OF WINDIES’ POOR FORM

All things considered, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that the performance of the West Indies team has been a contributing factor to the reduced media coverage for this tour and others of the recent past. Fans are understandably upset but remain interested and still want to know what is happening and why it is happening.

Heated discussions at street corners, rum shops and radio phone-in programmes are still commonplace among the islands where the passion for the game is no less than what it was during the glory days of West Indies cricket.

Be that as it may, the stark reality is media coverage is nowhere what it used to be in spite of radical advances in technology that have impacted on media production and consumption.

And if the team’s results had been better, it would be safe to assume that corporate support would in turn translate to more coverage.

Haydn Gill is Sports Editor at the Barbados Nation, one of the leading media entities in the Caribbean.

IMAGE: Jason Holder: ‘It hurts’ losing games for your country

For more on this story go to: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/sport/cricket/no-radio-limited-tv-and-minimal-print-coverage-make-series-out-of-reach-for-many-in-the-caribbean/news-story/20d9653f2b42d2da28e55540c954a7c1

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