Local TV closing down Friday

| 28/08/2019 | 89 Comments
Cayman News Service
Kafara Augustine reads the evening news on Cayman 27

(CNS): Hurley’s TV, which owns the local free television channel, Cayman 27, will quit broadcasting on Friday following the evening news, and after more than 25 years airing local news, sports, weather, talk shows and community events. Officials from the station said that for the better part of the last decade, the economic viability of the station, like many community TV stations worldwide, has been in question. The Utility Regulation and Competition Office (OfReg) was blamed for essentially forcing its closure.

Hurley’s TV Ltd Managing Director Randy Merren said the station was never profitable and was from its inception subsidised by its original owner and cable TV provider, West Star, as part of its licence requirement to provide local content.

“I acquired Cayman 27 because, as a Caymanian, it was important to keep the country’s only FTA independent television station in local hands,” Merren said in a statement about the station’s demise.

“In my discussions with the regulator prior to the acquisition, I made it clear that there were serious financial concerns and I was under the impression that there would be the creation of a ‘must carry’ fee, where each subscription TV licensed operator would pay to carry Cayman 27, so they could fulfill their own licence obligations that required each to provide local content. The ‘must carry’ fee, or Universal Service Fund, never came to pass,” he said, pointing to one of the major hurdles he faced in his efforts to keep up the public service.

He explained that OfReg, which includes television under its umbrella, was well aware of these issues and that without a getting a subscription fee Hurley’s would not be able to sustain the local programme provision. While OfReg embarked on a consultation over the issue of local content, Merren said that before that was completed, the regulator demanded outstanding fees from Cayman 27. Soon afterwards, OfReg issued a suspension notice, giving the station until 1 September to pay up or its licence rights would be suspended.

“In the absence of support from successive administrations and a lack of a level playing field set by the regulator, we find ourselves in the regrettable position of no longer being able to continue daily operations. We have no choice but to shut down Cayman 27 and Hurley’s TV Ltd,” Merren added.

He outlined some of the services the station has provided that will be lost, including, just as we enter the peak season, hurricane information and bulletins. But it has also provided coverage of political discourse, movies and content generated by local talent. It employed and trained many Caymanians to learn the tools of both the television production and television journalism trades.

“The training of Caymanians at the TV station is one aspect of which I am immensely proud,” said Television Station Manager Tammi Sulliman. “As long as someone was willing to learn and dedicate themselves to the service of the country through the work we do, the team at Cayman 27 always took the time to train and upskill those who needed it. The loss of this important training ground is one that personally affects me as I am acutely aware of how many people gained skills and employment as a result of their time at Cayman 27,” she added.

The station had been broadcasting from Camana Bay since it moved to the Dart-owned location almost three years ago. As a result, there was an expectation in the community that at some point the islands’ largest investor would probably take ownership of the TV. However, with less than three days before the TV goes off-air, there is no indication that any of Dart’s network of companies will be stepping in to preserve the local service.

See full media release from Hurley’s TV in the CNS Library


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Category: Business, Media

Comments (89)

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  1. Philipp Richter says:

    Cayman 27 has too much cultural significance to leave the airwaves forever.

    In my honest opinion, C27 will come back in due course.

    Sending positive vibrations to all the long time fans and supporters, it’s a sad moment but that frown will turn upside down. Has to…

    “Joe Avary is a better weather man than John Foster” – Philipp Richter

  2. Anonymous says:

    People still watch cable? Who knew?

    • Anonymous says:

      Older generation still watches cable but younger people have cut the cable.

      • Anonymous says:

        What needs to be understood is regardless of how Cayman 27 is transmitted cable or internet or free over the air – government has grossly unfairly ordered Cayman 27 to shut down.

        Shame shame on Alden and ALL PPM MEMBERS for allowing this to occur.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman 27 will also not be on any cable TV service.

  3. Anonymous says:

    While I do not want to ignore or excuse unnecessary government regulation, there appears to be a bit of hysteria over this. Mr Merren admits he bought the TV station knowing it was unprofitable and knowing the regulatory environment it operated under. He tried, he failed, that’s what business people do. OfReg may have its issues but this seems more like failed policies of successive governments and a bad business model than it is a regulator gone wild. As I understand it, the regulator is merely trying to collect fees due to it, which the licensee knew would be due when they bought the station.

    Then people are going on like this will kill all of Hurleys media radio stations too, which I don’t think anyone (Ofreg nor Mr Merren) has actually said and probably is not true.

    Another point: didn’t Hurleys Media borrow a whole bunch of money from Dart to buy the station? If this is, as some people say, the Government trying to stifle criticism (which makes no sense since Cayman27 was never much of a critic) would they really want to piss of Mr Dart by having him lose money on his loan?

    Chill out people. Businesses succeed and businesses fail. How much money have you spent advertising on Cayman27 in the last few years?

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you realise the real issue is that OffReg does not fairly and consistently regulate all TV license holders.

  4. TV-man says:

    Randy complains that the cable companies were supposed to pay him for the privilege of transmitting his programmes: BUT if they didn’t then who would be able to watch? No-one has roof-top UHF TV antennas any more. Desmond tried doing it that way and it didn’t work for him either.

  5. Anonymous says:

    C3, WestStar, Digicel, DataLink and Logic had originally agreed to install Type D1- Fibre Optic Cable
    networks sufficient to provide ICT services to 100% of the residents of Grand Cayman and/or the Sister Islands.

    Have these companies satisfied their obligations to complete this work? If not, when will their TBLs be suspended or the companies placed under supervision?

  6. Anonymous says:

    CNS should ask Off Reg and the cable suppliers how the requirement to provide local programming will handled.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Off the top of my head I can’t think of anything good to say about OfReg, but they are entirely blameless in this instance.

    One of OfReg’s mandates is to collect license fees, and Cayman27 were not paying them. ‘Nuff said.

    OfReg does NOT have the authority, and heaven forbid that LA should give it to them, to tell one set of licensees that they MUST carry the content of another and pay whatever they are told to do so.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do not agree with you. It is reasonable to require providers to carry local content, which means there must be some to carry. If there isn’t any because it isn’t economical without subsidy, then subsidise it. The government could do that, DART could do that, or the providers could do that. The most appropriate is the providers because you would not want government or corporate influence in the programming and decision-making.

      Demanding the licence fees was unreasonable at a time when OfReg knew its own delay in establishing a funding formula for the channel was the reason the fees had not been paid. They should have sped up those efforts instead of demanding payment upon threat of suspension. Now they will not get paid anyway and we will all lose local television.

    • Anonymous says:

      But there is a requirement to provide local content. OffReg appears to not be enforcing that requirement.

      • Anonymous says:

        Who is going to argue that a webcam at the Turtle Farm or continuous real estate adverts, isn’t local content?

        OfReg should not be involved in determining what is local content.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why only Cayman27 though? Why hasn’t Of Reg suspended the other companies licenses?

  8. Anon says:

    OffReg needs to spend time shutting down sites like Cayman Marl Road who spread false news, lie, harass people and makes peoples lives a misery
    But no they go after the only legitimate news source Cayman has ..Many thanks
    OffReg you have your priorities all wrong

  9. Anonymous says:

    Old traditional news channels are all dying. Everyone is now paying more attention to digital news and online videos. Soon the newspapers will be gone too.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Randy, we all know the only reason WestStar was “profitable” was because the owners were pirating the US Tv and charging us for it. They could afford a free local channel. But now that the US networks stopped the freeness and pirating a few years ago, we have the cry from unna about “its not fair”.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I for one feel as though Cayman 27 was a part of Caymanian culture.

    I enjoyed the various segments and it made the children feel special when they were on TV for various achievements. I remember when myself or a family member was on a segment, we would all crowd around the TV and watch.

    Does anyone feel as though we’re losing a bit of Cayman more and more as the years pass?

    The traditional “Public Beach” layout – gone
    Waving Gallery at the airport – gone
    Cayman 27 – gone

    Just to name a few…

    Sigh…

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wait, does this mean I can’t watch Woody talking in to a mic chatting shit all morning?

  13. Anonymous says:

    It’s about time.

  14. Anonymous says:

    so we now lost c27, never great but a good service for the people…
    compass will not do editorials….
    ppm stopped cig press briefings
    banana republic it is then.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Government just screwing Caymanians. Why force fees and tarriffs on a venture that can NEVER be profitable. You pay Radio Cayman to waste money. Ignorant people. Many Caymanians going to suffer.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Those fat salaries at OfReg and the top heavy management who do absolutely nothing will be the ruination of our islands.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Cayman 27. Hope the staff all land on their feet.

  18. E. Nygma says:

    Unfortunate in a jurisdiction that already has clear issues in terms of a lack or a limited number of news outlets with reliable coverage

    C27 did little more than read press releases and sum up headlines but it will be another step toward the government’s goal of stiffing the public’s access to information and relevant news.

    Cayman desperately needs more substantive and adversarial coverage to break up the white noise of the Compass (which at this point only really represents the owner class and the business class) and the sanitized propaganda of CIGTV
    We have fallen into the same trap that US corporate media depend on to maintain their control, people have forgotten that you can have a perspective and remain objective in reporting

    CNS is a good outlet, but there is only so much these ladies can do on their own, I shudder to think of a day when Sandra Hill’s trash pile is considered a real and respectable outlet, the Compass supports business interests which heavily lean on the status quo and the handfull of other outlets are too sporadic to be dependable sources

    It sucks to see C27 go, but simply echoing a press release is not holding anyone to account, that channel was stuck in the 1980s with their content and the lack of public engagement showed it

    • Anonymous says:

      Disagree!! Cayman 27 highlighted the BEST we had to offer in Sports with interviews across the Caribbean and offered Charities an amazing Sounding Board. If you watched daily, the content was good and “not” towing the line of swallowing only government press releases. This is a step closer to Big Government complete control and corruption and those who support any squashing of freedom of speech should be outraged!!!
      Gee, did Cay 27 “Air” opinions about the Port Boondoggle or is it that the FatCat OfReg salaried needed to be justified?
      Horrid step backwards for Cayman, free speech, and seeing a wackadoodle OfReg Board once again fall woefully short.
      The public now pays once again for political plays?? Sorrowful sad for TV and our Cayman Public

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree fully with you that OfReg is a mess. Especially wasting money on travel. However they cannot be blamed for asking these radio and tv stations to pay their license fees. In fact if they did not and the auditor general wrote that in a report we would all be cussing them blind for being irresponsible and subsidizing businesses with the peoples money. I run a construction company and no one is telling me I don’t need to pay my fees. Paying your license fees is part of operating a business. This tv station is just waiting for a Dart takeover.

        • Anonymous says:

          Exactly, they are dammed if they do and damned if they don’t. I appreciated the news in the evening – but I have to pay my logic fees every month. So I don’t understand why the TV people think they don’t have to pay their fees. Why do the people with the means always expect to get off free while the rest of us living from paychecj to paycheck can’t get a break.

          • Anonymous says:

            You are paying Logic who is getting the Cayman 27 channel for free and charging you for it and they are not paying the same government fees that Cayman 27 has to pay…

  19. Anonymous says:

    Come on Mr. Dart, Caymanians love our local news just like our liquor.

    • Anonymous says:

      What does Dart have to do with this?

      • Anonymous says:

        He subsidies Hurley’s Media…. Do you actually think those radio stations make enough money to afford rent at Camana Bay?! HA!

        • Anonymous says:

          Assuming you’re right about that (even if you used the wrong word) giving a desired tenant a reduced rent is not the same as paying their overdue licensing fees!

  20. Anonymous says:

    None of the whiners watched even 5 minutes of it in the last ten years, let alone spent an advertising dollar or two.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, but we knew that it was there. It provided the vital service of being there so that things that happened locally could be televised. We all know someone who worked there at some point and is now on to bigger and better things. Appearing on the channel gave public speaking experience to people who need it. It provided benefits to everyone here. It should be saved. OfReg should not be allowed to claim another victim with its incompetence.

      • Anonymous says:

        OfReg is incompetent but not for asking that fees be paid. I don’t want any Gov entity to spend my money supporting any private business.

        • Anonymous says:

          I doubt they made this untimely demand to uphold the law but to get more money to waste. It is all part of the overall picture of incompetence.

  21. North Sider says:

    Here we see how THE COST OF LIVING AND DOING BUSINESS in the Cayman Islands are extremely high! When governmental fees and permits become too high, it kills the market. And only well off folk like Dart has a chance if survival. THE END RESULT: The disappearance of local and small busineses, rise in theft and deception, rich folk monopolize the market, and more people out of job relying on government hand-out. HIGH FEES MEANS DEATH TO THE ECONOMY !

  22. Anonymous says:

    Good job CIG, not.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Breaking news!

  24. Anonymous says:

    Daddy Dart ain’t buying anything that don’t line his pockets. Also on what planet would Dart owning a news station be a good thing? Might as well just poison da water while you’re at it.

  25. Anonymous says:

    OMG..this is such bull crap! Why doesn’t Of Reg spend more time trying to get our electricity provider and Cayman Water from ripping us off. Threatening to shut down the one and only TV station that we have is ridiculous. Whilst I can’t blame or ask the owner to continue losing money I strongly believe the Government needed to be a bit more lenient particularly when none of the other companies were paying to broadcast Cayman 27 as part of their local content. I believe this is one time when the Premier needs to step up and make a good decision for the country.

    This is a great loss for Cayman. All we have left now if CIGTV which is the voice of the Government and is piss poor in quality and content. Nothing but stale dated legislative sessions with awful politicians screaming at each other.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Does it include their radio stations, too?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Really so sad. I grew up watching Daybreak, loved all the local personalities. It is really a loss for Cayman, especially given hurricane season reporting will now be lost from local TV. I just have to wonder, who benefits?

  28. Anonymous says:

    Sad news! I wonder how much the rent went up after the move and also whether the owners thought that by going there that the Dart Group would help out or if it was just the wider community view. That is not how it’s normally done- there usually are negotiations.

    • Anonymous says:

      Did you read the article? Nothing to do with the rent; everything to do with market being too small to support a free to broadcast TV station on a free market basis unless they are supported by the regulator, who apparently has no interest in the public service obligation that is at the heart of most regulatory frameworks. O know some people like to blame dart for everything, but this is fair and square an OfReg and CIG issue.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes I read the article and it did not mention whether the rent increased, but surely it must have been more expensive to move into the prestigious Camana Bay and caused a bigger dent in the budget. Perhaps that is why the company could not pay the licence fees!! Economics 101.

        • Anonymous says:

          Consolidating several business in one location is usually done to save money not just for space but also for human resources..

  29. Anonymous says:

    Noooooo bloods.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Nobody cares, because nobody watches it…

  31. Anonymous says:

    Sadly the standard of presenting and journalism on this station has been woefully inadequate and amateurish at best.

    • Anonymous says:

      Get what you pay for. And how much exactly did you pay for Cayman 27?

      • Anonymous says:

        We all pay far too much to live on these greed inspired islands. We don’t need to pay for amateur hour, let it go.

      • Anonymous says:

        Indirect/direct taxation and blatant profiteering is already far too high in Cayman.
        You want local tv, pay for it on demand and shut up whining.

  32. Junior says:

    The news only lasts 3 minutes maximum each night, the rest was……well……. stuff

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