Jun 04, 2017 kaieteur news
By Murtland Haley
Despite several stumbling blocks along the way, CNS TV will on Wednesday be celebrating 25 years in broadcasting across Guyana. Named after its founder, Chandra Narine Sharma (CNS), the television station that now broadcasts
on Channel Six, first began transmitting on the Channel 12 frequency on June 7, 1992.
On that day, CN Sharma and his wife Savitrie Sharma welcomed their third child and second son into the world, Dr. Manoj Sharma. Their five other children are Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Energy Agency, Dr. Mahendra Sharma, Owner of Gizmos and Gadgets, Gaitree Sharma, Junior Minister of Finance, Jaipaul Sharma, Seema Sharma-Bekhoo and Lakeraj Sharma.
Initially, CN Sharma had begun recording local entertainment hoping to have it aired on the three operating television stations at the time, especially since it was recognised that there was need for Indian programming on the airwaves.
However, the content was rejected by the stations and this inspired CN Sharma to open his own television station. Showing a number of Indian and English movie classics, the station soon became the talk of the town, as Guyanese welcomed the differently flavoured programming.
Not being able to afford a ‘mast’ to mount the necessary transmitters, CN Sharma decided to employ the use of lantern posts, which gave the station the nickname as the ‘lantern post station’. According to Mrs Sharma, it was necessary at the time to figure out a way of bringing down the cost of getting a proper mast. Therefore, to get the Station on the air as quickly as possible, this creative method was used.
This gave the station enough coverage to switch on and transmit. All of the technical work to set up the station was done by their eldest child, Dr. Mahender Sharma, who was a teenager at the time.
Being a new station showing different content, the reception by Guyanese was tremendous, because the majority did not have the opportunity to see Indian movies. Persons who hadn’t a television soon purchased one wanting to have access to the content.
The station was taken to court by a number of cinema owners for airing Indian movies free of cost.
According to the station’s Administrator, Tyrone Ali, 95 per cent of the station’s programming was local content. Ali has been with the television station for 24 years, joining on June 6, 1993 as a videographer.
CN Sharma continued filming short video clips around Guyana to air on the television to highlight the experiences of Guyanese in different communities. One of those experiences was the 1995 floods at Mahaica/Mahaicony which helped to garner much needed assistance for the residents in that area. Added to this, live entertainment performances were featured
on the station as well as Parliamentary sittings.
Gradually, the station began recording press conferences and anything else of interest. The team at the time included CN Sharma, his wife, Ali, their eldest son and two other employees. Most of the filming was done by CN himself, as he proved to be very versed with the camera.
As it relates to news, Mrs Sharma took up the mantle of reading the news, starting with press releases. As time went on, footage accompanied the presentations.
CN Sharma has hosted one of the most popular TV Shows in Guyana known as the “Voice of the People” and the station pioneered the showing of Death Announcements and Birthday Greetings. Initially, the station had been mocked for carrying death announcements, to the point that it was made a joke in one of the daily newspapers. However, today, death announcements are carried by both the broadcast and print media.
According to Ali, the initiative had caused a problem with some radio stations, because persons began having a preference for the announcements on television since the face of the deceased person could be shown accompanied by the appropriate music. He said that it was one of largest revenue earners for the station at one point in time.
In 1997, the station’s frequency was changed from channel 12 to six by the then People’s Progressive Party Civic government. The administration at the time wanted to use the Channel 11 frequency for the Guyana Television Broadcasting Company (GTV) now National Communications Network (NCN).
As such, the government claimed that having both Channels 12 and 11 operating, would cause disruptions in transmission and therefore gave CN Sharma Channel six.
According to the broadcaster, Channel 12 was a much stronger signal, but he was forced to use the weaker Channel 6. With this change, the station was forced to re-invest because a new antenna and transmitter had to be bought.
The station’s troubles did not end there. In 2002, transmission was suspended by the PPP/C government led by former President Bharrat Jagdeo for one day because of statements made by producer of the ‘Sunrise Show’ Mr Clem David.
Two years earlier, in 2000, the family had bought a new building on the northern side of Robb and Wellington Streets corner which was opposite the original location. Their intention of moving was fast-tracked following the Metropole Cinema fire in 2005. The cinema which was located nearby caused extensive damage to the station’s building resulting in about 2,000 of the station’s first archive tapes being damaged from its library.
The fire took with it 30 years of life which the family shared together. Starting over was tough according to Mrs Sharma. She said that although the building was insured, it was not insured to the value that was lost. Hence loans still had to be taken to get the necessary financing to restart operations.
Further, in 2005, the station was suspended again for one month because of statements made by CN Sharma about Jagdeo during the floods.
In 2007, for a third time, the station was banned from broadcasting for four months due to statements made by a caller on a programme hosted by CN Sharma. The statements were deemed as threats to Jagdeo. That suspension was later reduced to one month.
Moving forward, Ali said that several requests have been made to the government over the years regarding taking Channel 6 to Berbice and Essequibo. However, the station has been denied the opportunity to spread out from the coast.
Presently, the station covers the Mahaica/Mahaicony area, Timehri, Soesdyke and Essequibo Islands areas. The station is looking to reach as far as Skeldon and Linden.
Mrs Sharma said that under the PPP/C government, the station was denied the ability to broaden its coverage, while other stations which came after were given the opportunity.
Between 1996 and 1997 the station had applied for a radio licence, but has not been granted one onto today. As it relates to going digital, Mrs Sharma said that Suriname has already gone digital, complying with international requirements.
She said that the current government has to decide what format it wishes to take so that television stations can know how to invest when it is time to go digital. Guyanese stations are currently operating on an analog system.
Channel 6 currently streams all of its programming live on www.cns6.tv and uploads a variety of videos on its YouTube channel.