Re: Article by Rhondor Dowlat – Former Pioneers Wary of Govt Plan TTT Model Can’t Be Recreated Now. Sunday, August 27, 2017-
The Editor and On line Editor – Trinidad & Tobago Guardian,
I read Rhondor Dowlat’s article, ‘Former Pioneers Wary of Gov’t Plan — TTT Model Can’t Be Recreated Now’, which was published in your newspaper on Sunday, August 27, 2017. While I agree with Mr. Parasram’s point of view regarding the resurrection of TTT, his failure to acknowledge my late father’s contribution as a significant pioneer of Trinidad & Tobago Television struck me as strange. Any omission of John Barsotti’s name when discussing television history in Trinidad and Tobago is inaccurate at best and disrespectful at worst. ‘Uncle Jai, as we used to call him as children, worked for my father when he was Programme Director and then General Manager of TTT and acknowledged this fact himself in a blog post entitled ‘TTT Pioneer John Barsotti Passes Away in Canada’, in which he said, “His career began in 1964 in the Promotions and Commercial Production Department of Trinidad &Tobago Television. In 1970 he was promoted to the position of Commercial Production Director and in 1974 to Assistant Programme Director. In 1976 he left TTT […] in 1978, John was invited to rejoin TTT as Programme Director and accepted the position which he held for about 41/2 years before being promoted to General Manager in 1983.”
John Barsotti (Oct. 24th, 1937- Oct. 24th 2008.) John Worked at TTT from 1964 to 1976. He returned in 1978 and was Program Director until 1983. He served as General Manager of the station from 1983 to 1986.
These facts are in direct conflict to the timeline that Mr. Parasram gave your reporter, and I would like to clarify this for your readers.
My father started at TTT (also known as Television House) when he was 25 years old. In 1964, he worked under Barry Gordon, who encouraged my eager father to learn every aspect of the television industry. Dad knew how to work a camera, run audio, light a set, write copy, put together a news item, sell advertising and run traffic department logs. He did work under Farrouk Muhammad, like Mr. Parasram said, as Assistant Program Director until Mr. Muhammed left the country to live in Toronto. Dad became Program Director until about 1983, and was General Manager of the station until 1986.
That same year, Mr. Parasram left for Canada and did in fact work with the CBC, as mentioned in the article. Meanwhile, the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) had just been elected as the new government of Trinidad and Tobago; political interference would go on to deal my father the biggest blow to his life’s work. While it was par for the course for whatever administration was in power to try and dictate programming content, TTT’s new board of directors wasted no time in presenting my father with a list of 12 or so employee names, all supporters of the former government. The directive was for my father to fire these people or be fired himself. Perhaps they thought that the timing would work in their favour to strong arm him, since I was just about to begin my studies abroad.
But my father was a principled man and told the board he was not going to fire anyone because of their political affiliation. Two days later, he was fired from TTT and the media splashed the headline ‘Barsotti Fired’ in red capital letters on their front pages. The next day, I drove him to TTT to return the company car and gather his things; tearful staff lined up from the stairs to the carport to say their goodbyes. I still went off to university (I paid for it myself),but my father had to start from scratch in another country, all for doing the right thing — and despite my dad playing the part of the sacrificial lamb, the 12 people on that list were still let go.
To forget John Barsotti is to forget a significant piece of our nation’s broadcast history and to erase so many other players who were there from the start. Some may think this doesn’t matter — that these pioneers are all ghosts — but this one is my ghost and I love and admire my dad’s quiet dignity and everything he stood for. Had he still been here and read the article in question, he would no doubt have told me, “Don’t bother with this, Danie. The people who know me, know the truth and that is what matters.” But getting history right also matters.
Daddy circa 1965 Operating the old film camera
John Barsotti – third from the left, top row.
I know how Sylvia Hunt’s dishes tasted. I know the smell of the room where they stored the film canisters and the feel of the wood shavings at the back of the building where Patrick Moore would build the sets. I was there when TTT switched from film to video and when — after a long battle with the government — Dad bought and installed our country’s first satellite dish. I remember how stressed he was as the cranes placed it in the yard of the station and I watched the first broadcast via satellite. No longer would Trinbagonians have to listen to the Olympics audio over a still of TTT’s logo. We were able to see the Olympics and many other worldwide events LIVE, clearly and without an expensive feed from the major US networks; we finally felt connected to the world. It was historic. My father was very much a pioneer and it is worrying that he was excluded from Rhondor Dowlat’s article. I would like it to be corrected.
Here is the article that needs remedying – hopefully they will.