More transparency in Carnival

My editorial for the Guardian for March 10 calls for more transparency in the operations of the state agency responsible for convening Carnival and its most senior stakeholders.
Written for the Guardian editorial published on March 10

On Thursday last week, in response to a question put to an NCC panel convened to discuss a study of the broadcast potential of Carnival, the Commission’s consultant Ian Royer said that the executive would decide whether the report of a group of international media experts would be made public.

This is exactly the type of response that’s expected of the politically minded and it’s deeply disturbing to find that attitude worming its way into a non-competitive state agency responsible for the dispensation of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxpayers' money.

It’s not surprising then to find that much of the post-Carnival bacchanal about this year’s festival has also been about transparency and accountability, from Mr Shak’s allegation that his marks were doctored to ensure that he would not win to the confusion surrounding the NCBA’s decision to penalise some bands in competition.

Those controversies have only served to tar the win by Calypso Monarch Chucky with doubt and to steal from Neal and Massy All Stars, a long-term contestant in the large band category and third place runner up to the title in 2013, its rightful thunder as the first steel band to win the title in the 21st century.

The NCC is not a state agency with local rivals for its product and any rationale for keeping information about Carnival’s development secret defies both the guidance of commonsense and the mandates of good governance.
Commentary in this space has already lamented the lack of access to the recordings of deliberations held under the rubric of national consultations about Carnival after 2013.

That simply isn’t good enough for several reasons.
There’s the issue of the tendering process for the television production rights and streaming for Carnival 2014, which was quashed and the rights unceremoniously dumped on CNMG, leaving local production companies both stunned and angered.

Then there is the distillation of discussions down into execution plans without offering the many thousands of stakeholders of Carnival an opportunity to become involved or to comment.
Managing the process this way robs the NCC of the value of diverse opinions, which will run the gamut from tent owners to masqueraders to street vendors. These are people with very specific views on the festival and very deep experiences that are often missed or worse, misunderstood by Carnival’s leadership elite.

Hiding judges’scoresheets for a public competition creates wide ranging doubts about what exactly happens when these experts review competitions and offers no insight into the process.
Transparency and accountability are not challenges; they are opportunities.

At the very least, understanding what’s being rewarded and what’s finding disfavor would more constructively guide competitors in their efforts to craft successful works.
In a larger view, understanding the judging process as it exists now might begin a discussion that might more helpfully shape what is rewarded annually as great works of Carnival creativity.

It’s a level of insight that has never been afforded to the creative participants in the festival and one that’s long overdue.
It might also, finally, move beyond the anguish of Shadow’s bluntly frustrated Jump, Judges, Jump to an era that sees judges participating in discussions that improve the Carnival arts.

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