Illness knocks CN Sharma off air
…he survived challenges during his 20 years in TV
…Pioneered TV death announcement, local shows
By Rabindra Rooplall
Chandra Narine ’C.N’ Sharma, one of Guyana’s oldest broadcasters, has suffered three strokes for the year. The first attack was in March.
And although he is now ill, Sharma still insists on being in charge of a business that he and his family built from scratch; one that is now a household name in Guyana. Twenty years after that start he is still awaiting the permit he applied for to have a radio and relaying licence. Surveys have placed C.N.S Channel Six as the most popular television station in Guyana.
The veteran broadcaster and leader of the Justice For All Party was well known for “Justice For All” programme which later changed its name to “Voice of the People.”
Sharma’s popularity caused him to form the political party “Justice For All,” which now has a seat in parliament through its coalition with A Partnership for National Unity.
Sharma first established his vision on June 7, 1992 in a section of his house at 73 Robb Street, Lacytown, where the first broadcast took place at a time when there were only three other television stations in existence.
Born on April 1948 Sharma is known as a social activist, television station owner, talk show host, and politician. He shared 37-years of his life with Savitri Singh and the union produced three children.
In an interview with Kaieteur News, the nonchalant Sharma described his two decades as being filled with mixed fortunes and challenges.
Unable to fully express himself because of the third stroke he suffered, he had to be helped by his wife, Savitri Singh, to highlight some of the accomplishments and challenges he faced as a man who wears many caps.
“The TV station actually stared in the living room of our home…Sharma has an undying love for video using a video camera.” His early exploits in television saw him making video clips of local Indian talents because there was a severe lack of cultural programmes in the country at that time.
These persons would come to Sharma and he would video them dancing, or he would take them to the gardens or seawall where a recording would be done.
“The popular local actor Mahadeo Shivraj was one of the first persons that Sharma filmed,” his wife said.
His venture into the broadcasting industry expanded when he noticed that he was constantly refused by the three television stations at that time in the early 90’s to air the finished product. However, although he had explained to these owners of the broadcasting entities that there was only Americanized and English entertainment being shown and nothing else, this was not taken into consideration by the stations; they were dismissive.
“At that time they didn’t want any Indian programmes being aired on television. At that point I decided to buy a TV station and I went to Miami and bought the equipment,” Sharma said.
Sharma was a refrigeration technician, a bodywork specialist for cars, and a spray painter, when he made that decision.
He was the first person to introduce death announcements on television. Sharma said that persons said he was crazy, however, since then other television stations have mimicked this pattern. It was the same with birthday and other anniversary greetings.
His wife said that they also decided to focus on local events rather than overseas programmes. This was when a decision was made to show press conferences and parliamentary sessions.
“This was for people in Guyana to understand what was happening in their own country…and not only focusing on what is happening outside of Guyana. Then other stations followed the pattern.”
He noted that on one occasion, former President Dr. Cheddi Jagan at a brunch held at State House, commended him for promoting local shows. “I was the only person at the brunch with my camera. The other reporters did not walk with their tools because it was a brunch, but there was always something newsworthy to show.”
Lamenting that he requested to purchase a helicopter but was turned down by government, Sharma said that every angle he turned and wanted to further develop his business was always met with opposition from Government officials.
He explained that one of the challenges he faced was when the government owned television station GTV which is now NCN was moved from Channel 10 to Channel 11. This resulted in an interference of Sharma’s station, which broadcast from Channel 12.
In tidying up the spectrum for the government owned station, Sharma was ordered to remove from channel 12 to Channel 6.
Sharma had to bear the expense of replacing the transmitter and relevant equipment to convert the television station to Channel six.
Another major challenge was the fire in 2004 which consumed 30 years of memories the building possessed with all the valuables inside.
“We were living there and most of the TV station was also taken by the fire, but within one week we moved to 43 Robb and Wellington Streets. That was disastrous for us, but with continuous work the TV station was up in a week.”
In the early 90’s Sharma was taken to court; Miss Singh said they were taken to court by an Indian national for showing Indian epics and religious series on the television station. The Indian national claimed that Sharma at that time did not have the rights to air such programmes. This battle was one of the first won by Sharma in the courts.
Another challenge was when the cinema owners in the 90’s grouped up against Sharma and carried him to court because they felt that they were being put out of business because of the shows being aired on Sharma’s television station.
Reflecting merrily on the number of persons, who were assisted by visiting his television station to air their plights, Sharma said in the early 90’s when there was a serious flood in the Mahaicony area and interior regions, he personally intervened to help all affected.
“At that severe flooding I was on a call in programme, and Justice Prem Persaud sent a $50,000 cheque to give assistance to the flood victims. From that moment we could not control the spiral of things as donations of food, medical supplies and funds were sent to the TV station to help those flood victims.” Sharma noted “The army had to come out and assist to escort the first set of donations. Eleven truckloads of goods were taken. That shipment had everything persons could have donated to help. Tons of food stuff was donated, some of the stuff was air dropped.”
He added that Government intervened because of the large scale of donations being given, and Sharma’s escalating popularity.
“To spite me the government had me charged for damaging a part of the dam that I walked on…they say the part I walk on get damage, Former Commissioner of Police Laurie Lewis sent me a letter with the charge.”
Sharma also reminisced on one occasion where he bought a Mercedes motorcar from the Chinese embassy. Government later issued a statement declaring that when embassies decide to sell their vehicles, persons buying them must pay the duty on the vehicle.
“I guess someone in government had wanted the vehicle and didn’t get though with the transaction…the vehicle was a limited edition.”
His wife says whatever C.N Sharma enjoys in life was because of hard work. “C.N is very patriotic man, and he loves to help people unconditionally.”
“The only way to move Guyana forward is for people to be treated equally, and for Government to recognize that everyone wants to have rights to be respected, if government does not give respect and equal opportunities there will always be problems,” Sharma asserted.