Annie Paul | Big tree, small axe
"Retweet if you nah nuh light." While we waited out the latest islandwide power cut, courtesy of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), those of us on Twitter tittered at the antics of a parody account calling itself @myJPSoffline, a clever takedown of JPS's official Twitter account @myJPSonline. 'Retweet if you nah nuh light' was probably the most polite announcement made by the profane parodist last Saturday evening. The naughty account outdid itself when someone tweeted in frustration, "JPS in their ultimate form of slackness". "Slack like your p@#!#!" came the prompt response which had Jamaicans laughing out loud, a brief respite in the island-wide darkness.
Gone are the days when consumers felt impotent with rage, unable to make themselves heard, while some corporate entity jested with their time and money. Today, the average consumer is used to speaking truth to power, for no longer are we powerless except, of course, when the power company fails to deliver.
Another source of hilarity for us enforced idlers was JPS's Facebook customer service page, where people from every parish in the country shot questions and complaints at the power company. Said Fletcher Don from Portland: "need light now.. Just miss 2 bunch a bananas to b@#$side. All bell mi affi tie pon mi banana tree dem." There you go, "JPS the praedial larcenist's best friend" good line for a future ad.
We're inhabiting one of those rare moments in historywhen a paradigm that governed our lives, dictating how societies operate and humans behave, shifts, giving way to a new order, actually multiple new orders; for if there's one thing about the new paradigm, it's a threat to monopolies and monopolistic behaviour. It's calling card is the enabling of the individual subject, and the small community, allowing them to also wield power.
No longer are we disadvantaged because 'ground no lebbl'. A level ground or playing field is not a necessity any more, because now we can participate at various levels. We no longer live in a universe, we inhabit a multiverse, in more ways than one. In fact 'more ways than one' ought to be the shibboleththe slogan of this new era.
Perhaps one of the most tectonic shifts in TV broadcasting registered during the Rio Olympics this year. The American network NBC, which has bought the right to broadcast ten Olympics from 2014 to 2032 across virtually all media platforms: streaming, cable television, mobile, and the Internet, found that it had to allow live streaming of events. This is unlike former years when they insisted that Americans watch the Olympics in prime time, to maximise advertising revenue, regardless of whether the events might have taken place in the morning or afternoon.
They had to do this because more and more Americans wanted to watch the events in real time, like the rest of the world.
They didn't want to watch Lightning Bolt cross the finish line several hours after the event. They wanted to experience the actual moment he powered across it. This is what's called an 'experience economy'. NBC bowed and gave them what they wanted. As the magazine Wired put it, "...the 2016 Rio Olympics have shown, audiences do have the power to pressure even an old, established television network like NBC to bend."
This is something I've been trying to get across to our local broadcasting overlords, TVJ and CVM, for years. Both still insist on wielding their 'exclusive rights' the old-fashioned way by blocking the competition and insisting on an artificially created captive audience that has no choice but to watch the dull coverage they provide. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved CVM's Olympic ad with Simon Crosskill and Co, channelling Broadway and all, but the Caribbean ESPN feed left much to be desired, and you should have seen the hilarious feedback provided by the #commentatelikeGrace tweets.
In 2013, I was on a radio programme with some of the head honchos of local TV/cable TV programming, arguing about the broadcast locally of NBC's programme The Voice. I was trying to explain that the era of 'exclusivity' broadly speaking, was on its way out and that perhaps buying the 'exclusive rights' to broadcast a popular American TV show, then thwarting your viewers by not broadcasting the show live because you think you now have a captive audience, might not be the way to go in future.
In vain did I try to point out that TVJ's cardinal sin had been acquiring exclusive rights to a popular show and then not showing it live, particularly when it was the kind of reality show that demanded audience participation in the form of texting, voting and tweeting. It's called interactivity and it has revolutionised the way content is presented, consumed and distributed globally.
Those who want to profit from providing access to television content, cannot afford to overlook the huge transformation sweeping the creative industries. They would do well to heed Bob Marley's words, "If you are the big tree, we are the small axe, sharpened to cut you down, cut you down."
• Annie Paul is a writer and critic based at the University of the West Indies and author of the blog, Active Voice (anniepaul.net). Email feedback to email@example.com or tweet @anniepaul.