St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Attorney general Vincent Byron is explaining the government's thinking about the future of The Cable.
Government owns 69 percent of the entity that provides television channels, VOIP telephone and broadband services.
Technology has enabled streaming services to increase competition with the Cable, intellectual property rights and compulsory licensing challenges have made television channels like HBO very expensive and The Cable is struggling to offer premium content. On the bright side, its internet services are proving profitable.
Digicel has offered to buy The Cable and government is weighing its options
WINN FM 98.9 spoke with AG Vincent Byron at the Basseterre courthouse where it's a practice to call out the names of people attending court
“We have had a direct proposal from Digicel to purchase shares in The Cable and that has been under consideration for some time partly because there have been a number of other issues involved to that extent. No decision has been made yet as to what form that would take but that is built into some of the questions we ask in matters of copyright has been an issue that has confronted us and we are still investigating that properly to ensure that everything would be in order, that if there was to be a divestment in The Cable that the government is not found to be in a position to have liability in the future.”
Mr. Byron said the Cable offers opportunities for the country beyond providing a television service.
“Anything we do, whether it is going to be in the forms of the government itself, having a secure network, a geron project, that’s ongoing as we speak, to be able to link every government department, not just in St. Kitts but in Nevis, in a secure network that allows us to have enterprise solutions to improve efficiency and effectiveness, to deliver e-citizen services. To have citizens communicate with and for the government communicate with citizens, it’s going to be based fundamentally on our broadband or internet services.”
The Cable was started in 1983 by a group of US Investors including current manager Bill Ewing who owns close to 30 percent of the shares wants to sell his stake in the company
“The company has been built by Bill Ewing in his image as CEO, managing director we want to put it that way, and so I cannot stress enough the contribution that he has made to the development of The Cable Company and to the country but Bill is now in an advanced age, he wants to be able to retire, and he has had recently some health challenges and so we would want very much to allow him to demit office, if we can term it that way, in a fair and proper way.”
Also, some workers are clamouring for an increase in salary claiming not to have had one for close to nine years.
They did get a double salary in December.
Workers took industrial recently and after a meeting with board members also met with the AG with an aim to resolving their issues this month
“I’ve asked that they nominate representatives to meet with the board and the management to be part of a compensation committee, to review the state of the company, the sector, the way the sector here and in the region so that there be proper bases for any sort of resolutions of the matter. You don’t want to pull something out of the air – pluck something out of the air - just to appease but that the workers understand that they are being taken seriously, that the company can or may not, give them a certain level of comfort, and so if they are part of those discussions and have access to that, we believe it’s the proper way to go.”
WINN FM 98.9 understands that The Board of Directors increased from nine to 12 members and reportedly up their fees in November by 50 percent retroactive to March last year.
“You have found that we have tended to not have had an active - from the political director - involvement in these things, we still expect that our appointees would be circumspect, that they would understand the sensitivities involved in these matters, and I do agree that it has been somewhat insensitive of the board of The Cable to have taken the type of action they did, at the time they did, when there was these other concerns and frustrations of workers. It was also not a direction of the political directorate and so we have to address that and see how we deal with that going forward.”
Attending committee meetings, one source claimed, attracts a fee of $100 per committee member and Directors also received double fees in December 2016.
“I would say that I am not sure that the members of the board do get their stipend for subcommittees - but the question of the subcommittee that they meet very regularly and so they do a lot more than what has been done – there has an audit committee for instance that has been very instrumental in finding a lot of information that may not have been known before and making recommendations and so forth, so our boards have been working a lot more than they did in the past – they meet regularly. As to whether they are actually in operational control, I don’t think so, the management still does, but because they have agreed to an understanding of what is done, I think their guidance as a board has been important” Byron said.