Television as a medium had a content, during the Gairy years, that distanced itself from providing any opposition to government. It was primarily entertainment and of a commercial nature. Television sets were not prevalent in Grenadian homes in the early days of the Gairy regime.
Grenadian television reception began in 1962 with the opening of T&T Television (TTT) - 90 miles away, limited to Grenadians in certain elevated areas and by economic status. Broadcasting included a news program with Trevor McDonald.
Grenada Television Co. Ltd. with a transmitter at Fort Frederick carried television signals to St. George's and Grand Anse, and the surrounding area. A private company, GTV was established on 27 May 1974 with major shareholders Station Manager Joseph Pitt, Ralph Alves of St. Vincent and Glenn Evans of Grenada.
Most broadcasts were relays from Trinidad & Tobago Television (TTT). Grenadians could receive television programs from Trinidad TV and Grenada Television (GTV). There was no mass audience upon which to foment desires to purchase goods. Relays appealed to a larger number of households; thus advertisers were more likely to purchase spots.
Grenada Television Company sold televisions within a government monopoly on receiver imports. In 1975 a second transmitter on Mount St. Catherine covered the city and surrounding area of Grenville.
The Government of Grenada had a minority share interest in 1978 when it bought 30 percent of the shares in Grenada Television Company for EC$112,500. The TV station had not been fully functioning. Most programming continued as rebroadcasts from TTT with approximately two hours in the evening for local programming, but local programming had ceased due to technical difficulties. On 22 February 1979 the first satellite transmitted television program was broadcast on Television Grenada.
After March 1979 when the new People's Revolutionary Government took control of Grenada, GTV programming ceased.
29 June 1979 - Government Gazette announces removal of monopoly on importation of television sets given to Joseph Pitt by the Government of deposed Prime Minister Eric Gairy.
In the April 1982 issue of the Media Worker, a publication of the Media Workers Association of Free Grenada [MWAFG], Joan Ross outlined a history of Television Free Grenada [TFG]. She writes that TFG grew out of Grenada Television
. . . which existed as a government-private sector partnership, prior to the Revolution. All shares in GTV were purchased by the People's Revolutionary Government in early 1981. The equipment was for the main part unusable. The system itself inherited by TFG comprised a 'booster' transmitter which brought in the Trinidad and Tobago (TTT) TV signal. Local programming was confined to nightly news, headlines, without film or video clips, before GTV switched over to TTT.
In another account, by July 1980, the PRG had procured GTV, renaming it Television Free Grenada (TFG) - Dennis Francis, Technical Director, was the person who received complaints of poor reception. In the beginning reception reached only St. George's on Channels 7 and 12. Later, new equipment enabled a signal increase to cover north and east of the island.
Whatever the circumstances of the switchover date, staff over the years included Cecil Belfon, Manager of TFG, Sheryl Fletcher 1982 was a manager on TFG, and that same year Elaine Baly was director. Kamau McBarnette was (Secretary for Information), following Caldwell Taylor. Carmen Ashurst, an internationalist worker, produced shows. She later produced the film "The Future Coming Towards Us." Josephine McGuire was on board. Joan Ross and Michael Thomas were doing field reporting from Nicaragua, and Joseph Antoine was on a cultural exchange trip with Canadian Crossroads International. By 1983, additional staff included Denise Campbell and Trevor Hopson.
Television programming circa 1982 included six locally produced shows - "Pioneer Times" (changed to "Ti Marmaile"), "Grenada Today", "Culturama," "Let the People Speak," "Interview of the Month" and "News and Sports." Programming was based on a state decision that content not be racist, sexist or gory. Imported movies comprised the majority of programs. Programming from TTT supplemented the schedule.
Ms. Baly described one outreach effort:
Using 3/4-inch industrial equipment, rigging up a working system and taking a small portable camera out in the field, Baly says, "We can take the cameras to the people rather than have them walking into an imposing studio."
The community of Birchgrove completed its community center, and television went out to cover it. It was on the news, but the people of that community couldn't see it because no one had a television set. So we organized an evening, let everybody know, and took a television monitor out there. We showed them the news plus a movie. They love it, they want to do this again.
Technical difficulties often plagued the broadcasting efforts of TFG - electricity outages, lack of specialized tools, lack of replacement parts. untrained workers, or workers trained in far more sophisticated equipment than in Grenada, capped off by low wages.
March 1983 there were 30 people working at Television Free Grenada, 5 of the 30 in management. About one-fourth of households had television reception in 1983. TFG managed to be on the air with its own programs two days a week.
In People's Law No. 8 of 1982, the Television Licence Law written as "A Law to impose an annual licence to own, use or keep a television set."
The language of this Television Licence Law continues that -
"Every person who has a television set shall take out a licence to own, use or keep the same and shall pay therefor to the Comptroller of Inland Revenue an annual licence fee of %25,00."
"Any person who is required to take out a licence under this Law and fails to do so shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $1000."
The license was granted from the day of issue to the end of the calendar year 31st day of December. The licence was not transferrable "other than to the spouse, executor, administrator, or assignee in bankruptcy of the person to whom the licence was originally granted." The licence was not applicable to those who were licenced to sell television sets or any person who is a bona fide repairer of television sets.
The Television Licence Law was signed off by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop on 8 March 1982, but retroactive to 1 January 1982.
Appreciation and acknowledgement to John A. Lent's interviews with Grenadian editors and program directors found in "Third World Mass Media and Their Search for Modernity" and the Journalism Quarterly article "Mass Media in Grenada."
For additional and detailed information, please check out these links:
Newspapers - Overview
Gairy and Media
The Spark, 2 February 1975
The Spark, [March 1975]
Torchlight and the PRG
Grenadian Voice and the PRG