After broadcasting week nights for the past 18 years, the producers of Prime News announced last night that they will be suspending operations.
Current anchor Nazima Raghubir officially announced the pause in the broadcast at the end of the airing of last night’s edition of the half-hour newscast.
Producer Julia Johnson told Stabroek News that it was time to review the operations and income generation.
“It was always the dream of [the late] Frank Beckles, one of the founders, to stay on air and be that independent voice of the people,” she said, while noting that the decision to suspend the broadcast of the news programme was a tough one.
“We are in a difficult position and the low ad [advertisement] rate was not helping. We need 12 minutes of ads [per newscast] to breakeven, but we are only getting four minutes and that has put us in a difficult position,” she explained further of the producers’ decision.
Apart from low advertisement rates, she noted that televising the newscast consumed a large portion of the revenue generated.
“While TV stations pay to produce the news in other countries that is not the position here. We are paying to carry and transmit the newscast and that is a taking a humongous chunk of our revenue,” she noted.
Johnson also stated that they had initially made a decision to cease broadcasting in June, but after speaking with the staff they agreed to go continue broadcasting until mid-July.
“Our staff are informed and are part of the decisions we made. We are looking at other avenues in which we can package the news, maybe online or radio,” she explained, while adding, “We have become a family and our staff is contributing to the future decision we make.”
While Prime News, which began airing in May, 2000, has been put on hold, the producers are expecting to resume in September.
Johnson, who currently co-produces the news with Adam Harris, said the newscast was birthed after a group of workers walked off the Evening News, which was under the operations of Vieira Communications Television, then owned by Anthony (Tony) Vieira.
Prime News has largely been broadcasted on the HBTV Channel 9 from 6.30 to 7.00 pm on weekday nights.
The entity was co-founded by Beckles, Johnson, Harris and Alberta King.