Workers still to be paid for tourism web series

-producer says promised ministry funding never came

Guyanese who were employed with TAGG TV are still waiting to be paid for their months of work on the flopped social media-driven initiative that was meant to promote Guyana’s tourism product.

The initiative had been endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism, which had promised financial support which never materialised, TAGG TV founder Christopher Bassoo recently told Stabroek News, noting that the ministry had promised US$150,000 to cover travel expenses for both Canadian and Guyanese staff but the funding never came.

TAGG TV produced short videos that were sponsored by various tourism-based businesses in Guyana. The concept involved the videos being uploaded to social media sites and people would be “tagged” in the videos. The hope was that by “tagging” people the videos would go viral, resulting in a very low cost but effective media branding tool for Guyana’s tourism sector.

In July 2012, during a press conference, Tourism Minister Irfaan Ali stated that “from the budget we have we need US$150,000 approximately…the government has committed itself to this. This process we are going to take up a lot of the cost because we see the strong potential benefit this would bring to us. There is a lot of cost in transportation, there is a lot of cost in accessing information gathering, building a network, building a network of infrastructure to make this happen, all of that the Government of Guyana is committed to.”

Ali had also stated that the venture was an opportunity for Guyana and “TAGG TV is not coming to try and make a lot of money out of this. We see a genuine effort in that budget to take Guyana a step further.”

In June, the Guyana Tourism Authority released a statement distancing itself from Bassoo and TAGG TV. “We have received so many complaints that we are in
the process of releasing a statement. This is not what we had ever intended and we are distancing ourselves from this,” Head of the
GTA Indranauth Haralsingh told Stabroek News.

Haralsingh noted that the low cost initiative seemed like a good idea but said that no formal fiscal investments were ever made. “The various partnerships, they would pay him a sponsor fee and they did so we are going to have to make contact,” he stated. Haralsingh noted that there was never a contract between Bassoo and the ministry for payment of any monies—a claim which was substantiated by Bassoo.

Earlier in June, the London Free Press reported that Bassoo has failed to pay both Canadian and Guyanese employees for their time in Guyana and services rendered. Asapho Jones, who worked for TAGG TV in Guyana, told Stabroek News that he spoke with Bassoo in May. “He wasn’t making any progress…I am upset but I still have to hold on for it,” he said. He said that Bassoo owed him US$4,000.  The man recalled that Bassoo was forthcoming when the money woes began and stated that “the minister had promised money, but that never happened and now Chris can’t pay us.”

Roopesh Singh, who worked as an editor, stated that TAGG TV utilised his production company and resources, but payment never came. He said Bassoo paid him a portion of what he was owed. “He paid us US$4,000 but he owes more money, he just been promising and promising,” he asserted. One of the contracts that Bassoo was responsible for was with TVG/Channel 28, Singh said. He noted that TVG wanted to buy the raw footage but he was not sure how much money Bassoo was paid by TVG for this footage. “Chris kept changing the concept and I ended up editing the raw footage, but that didn’t make sense. It all ended up being unorganised and I know he owes a lot of us money,” Singh told Stabroek News.

Meantime, Bassoo stated that currently he is aware that he owes over US$20,000 to former Guyanese who worked as assistants, editors, cameramen and ad production assistants. He stated that after filming began in August 2012, he signed various contracts with local businesses and fulfilled the contractual obligation for most. Bassoo told Stabroek News that for the contracts he did not fulfil, he provided refunds.

Bassoo stated that he ran into financial trouble after the hotel cost for the three-week initiative, which began in August and ended in September 2012, was over US$20 000. “The [ministry] had called me and when we spoke, he had committed this money to the project and so the Canadian team had flown in for the month and we had the Guyanese team,” Bassoo stated.

He said that the project was only supposed to run for the three weeks, at which point everyone would be paid and the editing process would begin. Bassoo stated that a few of the investors did not pay the full sum under their contracts and as a result, money became a major problem. He said he kept in contact with the Guyanese employees and they were kept abreast of the situation.

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