ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFFHANGER

On July 15, in a column headlined “Jumping off a Cliff?” I tried to guide Clifton Hughes, as gently as I could, towards a better understanding of his role as CEO of Nationwide 90FM.

Obviously, I failed. His reply came faster than a champion thoroughbred stallion. On July 16, in a pathetic attempt (Jumping off a cliff? Hell, no! Gleaner; July 16) to refute my unflattering but fair characterisation of his move as akin to Lee Joon-Seok on a Korean ferry, Clifton asserted “NNN is stronger than it has ever been……”. DWL! So, why isn’t his talk show on Nationwide?

Where did the naughty little flea go?
Nobody know, nobody know.
Where did the naughty little flea go?
Nobody know, nobody know.

In a torrent of Boynesian style non-sequiturs, Clifton tried to support that assertion as follows:

I did not build this bastion of truth to simply abandon it; instead, my vision of NNN has always been to revolutionise the Jamaican media landscape….

It’s for this reason the NNN team made a series of notable changes in recent months.

These changes included the drafting of a cadre of young, talented broadcasters who are well positioned to be the new generation of news hounds. NNN also moved into a larger newly renovated building, which once housed Power 106FM.

Does this sound as though I’ll be jumping ship anytime soon?”

Well, it doesn’t sound like anything capable of convincing anybody you aren’t standing on the gunwale in an Olympic swimmer’s “get set” mode. Someone whose vision is “to revolutionise the Jamaican media landscape” won’t accomplish that vision by running off to work for a part of the landscape you believe needs revolutionizing. Revolution means change. “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” isn’t change, it’s an admission of defeat.

Please specify these “notable changes” for me Clifton. The changes of which the public is aware include the sudden departure of pre-eminent morning show co-hosts, Emily Crooks/Naomi Francis, and “Nationwide at 5’s” loss of news hound, George Davis, to plug one of the resultant gaps in the morning programme. The only new presenter we’ve heard in “recent months” is Kalilah Enriquez who was first assigned to replace George on “Nationwide at 5” then hurriedly re-assigned to plug the second leak in “This Morning”. I’ve also heard the odd news report from one Orville Burke.

Jamaica knows two Nationwide “news hounds” namely George and Abka Fitz-Henley. Programme presenters Vernon Derby, Georgia Crawford-Williams and Dennis Brooks aren’t new recruits. “Miss Kitty” has been holding down the fort in your afternoon time slot for over a year. Where is this “cadre of young, talented broadcasters who are well positioned to be the new generation of news hounds”? Normally, a “cadre” is more than two.

Switching tenancies says nothing about Nationwide’s financial future. Radio stations don’t shut down transmission for days to change landlords willy nilly and it shows neither fiscal strength nor stamina. Power 106 moved from Bradley Avenue to save costs. Why did Nationwide give up its luxurious studio at Mannings Hill Road for the cramped environs of the old Power 106 studios at Bradley Ave? Bigger building? Maybe. Smaller studio? Definitely. Did Nationwide owe rent it couldn’t pay? All these factors, especially your rush to work as a presenter on a competitor station, led me to believe Nationwide is in financial trouble and this was NOT a move intended to benefit Nationwide.

Within days, Clifton moved decisively to prove my point by conducting an interview with Bruce Golding on “Cliff Hughes on line” (instead of on Nationwide). In his July 16 article he had written “It’s important to note that ‘Cliff Hughes On-Line’ does not compete with any of the programmes on Nationwide 90FM. The shows on Nationwide 90FM and my talk show on Power 106FM were designed to attract different audiences, and this will always be the case. Therefore, there is no conflict of interest. It’s straight business!” Seriously? Are you REALLY trying to tell me “Nationwide at 5” (a show on Nationwide 90FM) had no interest in interviewing Golding? Did it try? Suppose it had and Golding preferred to appear on the more popular Power 106 time slot, wouldn’t that be direct competition? Didn’t “Nationwide at 5” play stale clips of the Golding interview from “Cliff Hughes on Line” that same afternoon? Why not book the interview for Nationwide instead?

A naughty flea he came to town;
started searching up and down;
looking for a place to nest;
where he can get some food and rest.

Then, comically tangling himself in his own web, Clifton made what must have been inadvertent admissions when he wrote: “I recognise that the move to the former Power 106FM building on Bradley Avenue and the new show ‘Cliff Hughes On-Line’, which airs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Thursdays on Power 106FM, have caused some amount of confusion to Nationwide listeners and advertisers. [GR: So why not clear up this confusion BEFORE my critique]

However, let it be known that I am first and foremost a newsman before I am a CEO.

Clifton, here’s some free advice for which you’d otherwise have to pay dearly. If you’re “foremost a newsman” then you must resign as Nationwide CEO before pursuing self-centred “business” opportunities as a newsman. As Nationwide CEO, your duty is to Nationwide Directors, shareholders and employees. You’ve no right to endanger their livelihoods by diverting advertiser interest elsewhere whether deliberately or inadvertently.

He saw a lady round and fat.
He smiled a smile and tipped his hat.
He said oh yes I’m goin’ have a ball.
Man look at all that cholesterol.

Incidentally, just to set the record straight, I’ve never worked under the “leadership” of Clifton Hughes as he alleged. That particular pleasure isn’t on my bucket list. I created, produced, directed and co-hosted a sports magazine show, Saturday Afternoon Live (SAL), and a horse racing preview programme, The Angel and the Tout (TAATT), on Nationwide. Both were leaders in their genre. I had the privilege to lead a team (Michael Hall, co-executive producer, co-presenter SAL; George Davis, Live racing coverage Anchor; Donovan “Minister of Information” Wilson, Associate Producer, co-presenter TAATT and co-host live racing broadcast; Karl Angell, original TAATT Anchor and live racing analyst who eventually transitioned to greener pastures; and Camile Buchanan, Anchor TAATT and live racing analyst) of the most knowledgeable and talented in the business.

I was an independent contractor. I neither took advice from nor tolerated any interference in the production or presentation of my programmes from Clifton. When he did step in, ostensibly to enforce Nationwide policy, by banning one of my key presenters from the air, that eventually led to my departure from that station never to return on any permanent basis. At the request of former team member and future journalism doyen, George Davis, I did volunteer my services for a special Derby Day broadcast. In my absence, Nationwide’s horseracing coverage has imploded.

Sum up friends well can you see
the big advantage of being a flea.
Just remember whatever you do
that what you bite is what you chew.

In the late 1940s/early1950s, Jamaican mento performer Norman “Lord Flea” Thomas worked regular gigs with his band “Lord Flea and the Calypsonians” (a misnomer for a mento band) at local dancehalls and was recorded by Ken Khouri. He wrote his humourous song about a naughty little flea that seemed to have no home; was signed by Capitol Records; released one album; and toured the US but died before he could really make his mark.

Clifton, actions speak louder than words. Like the naughty little flea, you are what (and where) you eat.

Peace and Love

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