CMBC 2020: Media Challenges and Opportunities

Caribbean Multinational Business Conference (CMBC) was founded in 1995, by Karl and Faye Rodney. It has been dubbed the “Davos of The Caribbean” – a conference of African-American, Caribbean-American, US business persons, corporation leaders, thought leaders, and elected officials who gather in the Caribbean to explore the possibilities.

Every year, since 1995, several Heads of State come together with the business community to discuss issues and blend ideas, network and plan forward to strengthen the ties within the Diasporic communities.

This year the theme was “The Dual Pandemic Global Impact on People of Color”.

This session was a discussion on Media/Social Media: Challenges and opportunities we face with AI and Black Media. Janice Lawrence- Clarke moderated with panelists Trevor Smith, President of Tower Isles Frozen Foods, NNPA President Dr. Benjamin Chavis, entrepreneur Michael Roberts, and Dr. Claire Nelson, Ideation Leader of The Futures Forum.

To continue the discussion that started in the previous session on how the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) will impact humans, Lawrence-Clarke allowed the speakers to give their points of view on the emerging technology we are seeing in our midst.

Mr. Roberts gave an overall view of the outlook of things – being in a pandemic where we are spending less, the age of the digital revolution is here where there are new forms of data coming at us every day. 

He questioned what will the effect be on our information, and asked, “How do we get the data to be quantified, be used and how will it work for us.”

Dr. Claire Nelson chimed in, from her experience,  that there is a climate of concern around the hardware of news and the source in which it is held. She explained that hardware is built by fiber-optic companies and rely on external sources that we, the larger community, have no control over.

In her current work, she is working to match colleges with benefactors to ensure that they have the hardware capability to create space-aware engineering systems.

Also, she is concerned that we need to control what is driving search engines.

She asserted that large media organizations like the NNPA need to reconstruct themselves right now as a network of institutions that come together to build their own social engines to have control over the algorithms and bias.

She said only then will we be able to provide Black readers with more ‘safe’ news. She also suggested reimagining the role of the journalist.

Nelson shared that “COVID is asking us to birth a new vision for ourselves and humanity where media becomes a space where all parties can come together to tell the stories that we need to hear.”

Dr. Chavis’ remarks were mainly on the question of ownership. He shared that there are many media companies that target Black people but are not owned by Black people.” It’s not just a question of hardware and software, it is who programs them.” he asked listeners to be aware of the source of news transmitters.

Finally, he said we need our own channels –  radio, television, podcasts because there is invaluable content being generated and distributed and it becomes critical when we don’t own it.

Radio host Trevor Smith chimed in that in his personal experience starting a new podcast gave him an opportunity to reach more of his listeners because they could now listen at any time versus his radio show that presented a time issue to those, not in the time zone. He marveled at where the tech has brought us.

He said we must take a look at the impact of AI on child abuse, world hunger, modern slavery, and begin to solve the social problems in our community.

As a segue into how to make the changes, Mr. Roberts shared that to move forward we need those with money to invest in our initiatives to interest advertisers in who we are.

He advised that we “must have a mentality that liberates and frees us.”

Instead of getting a job, we should run a family business or start a new one – something he instilled in his four kids, he shared.

Dr. Chavis reiterated that point of ownership sharing first that millennials are the most gifted and talented generations we have, but they need encouragement and we must be on hand to provide that to them.

He also stressed that we don’t invest and own enough of our infrastructure.

He shared that the NNPA generated more revenue this year in the pandemic than any other year because of advertising. The election and Census brought major advertising which is usually not targeted at the Black community.

He advised we start connecting globally and be observant to movements around the world because there is universal awareness. 

There is potential, he said with a White president and Black Vice President in office, to translate the biggest advertisers – the Federal Government to advertise in the Black media.

He pleaded with us to get the word out, we have four years to change things around.

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