Despite accepting Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley’s offer to head his legal team for the impending lawsuit to be filed by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, former attorney general Ramesh Law
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NCBA president: Carnival copyrighted and worth millions
The National Carnival Bands Association of T&T (NCBA) is taking a multi-pronged approach to the business of mas as it seeks to realise financial sustainability and independence from the State, says its president David Lopez. Placing education on the front-burner through the teaching services of its Mas Academy, the Carnival special interest group (SIG) was moving to elevate the knowledge and skills set of both emerging and existing artisans with the aim of establishing a well-constituted industry.
This, he said, would go a long way in staving off the present import crisis of Carnival costumes from China and Asia to this country. But that’s not where the organisation’s priorities end. Ensuring that designers understood their rights on the subject of works of mas beyond the fixed payments issued by band producers was a priority, too, as well as the now controversial issue of media rights–both free to air and streaming–were also among the areas being tackled with the aim having a well-constituted industry.
In a T&T Guardian interview on February 21, Lopez said it was the latter issue that would help his organisation address the ongoing debate over financial independence for SIGs. Revenue from the sale of media rights for the coverage of the NCBA events, such as King and Queen Competition, Junior Parade of Bands and the Parade of Bands competition on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, could give the governing body the lift it needs.
While many were still unclear on the workings and ultimate benefits of media rights, Lopez was of the view this area could generate millions for an organisation like the NCBA. “Millions! Millions of dollars! US$20 million and more! We are aware of the situation. We have the Fifa model. We have the ICC model.
“Fifa does not make its money at the gates. Fifa make their money by rights, selling the rights! People acquiring the rights and advertising! That’s where the money is! Unless and until we bring our Carnival and the mas component of that to this level, the money will continue to leak out,” he said. For the past two years, the NCBA streamed all its competitions to viewers around the world at no cost to those logging on.
Using the pay-per-view platform, Lopez and his executive hoped to generate increased revenue based on statistics that show an estimated 200,000 international culture lovers viewed Carnival activities last year. It came as no surprise the audience was based in the United States, more specifically, the New York tri-state area. Lopez, however, made it clear the introduction of the pay-per-view system being facilitated by Carib Link Digital was not directed singularly at the diaspora. The aim, he said, was also to attract new audiences.
NCBA was also courting television networks around the world to acquire the rights in their geographical location and share the “Greatest Show on Earth” with their viewers. Lopez tackled the now controversial issues of media rights among local media houses and said it was not clear the NCBA needed to engage in a public education campaign.
“Over the years, most people, in the media in particular, feel that that process is free. The NCBA together with its partners (Pan Trinbago, Tuco) are now looking at it because it’s a legal process and it has copyright infringement aspects. Not much money has been made from these areas because the attitude from the majority of the media personnel.
“They make their money at the back end of it, but want to product for free because over the years, the notion has been that Carnival is in the public domain and it is free. Pay me $3 million for the rights! It’s a business arrangement. You going to make back your money by selling spots, by bringing in other media, not feel that it is the Government and the State funding Carnival and I am a state media, so I automatically have the right to shoot. That is what we are dealing with. Works of mas are copyrighted,” he said.
“Media personnel come and say they want it for news. We have done our research and these pictures are selling for as much as US$20,000. We know that the magazines and they are doing it for charity, but there is advertising in the magazines. It is an uphill battle. It will continue to be an uphill battle. New media is something new to us. So as we go along, we would have to deal with it. If we are prepared to play on the world stage, we have to be prepared to play by the world rules.”