By L.K. Hewlett

St. Kitts Reporter

The third season of Digicel Rising Stars, the hugely popular talent search series, was launched last Friday with a press conference held in St. Lucia.

Regional media representatives from television, radio and newspapers, top executives from the telecommunications giant, members of the show’s production team, past finalists and the 2006 Digicel Rising Star, Kyron Baptiste were present at the event.

Michael Hogan, the network executive producer for the show, said that the original show started in New Zealand, then spread to the United Kingdom and now it was getting a huge following in the Eastern Caribbean.

“When this format of talent search combined with reality type TV was first pitched to TV. station executives in the U.S., all the major networks except Fox turned it down. The format exploded and now shares the top spot for most coveted advertising spots with the Super Bowl. What I like about this show is that it gives anyone with talent a chance at an opportunity to showcase that talent. They don’t have to find financing or anything in order to get this opportunity, we bring the opportunity right to their door,” Hogan said.

Errol McGlothan, Digicel’s Director of Marketing for the Eastern Caribbean added his sentiments at the proceedings.

“With Digicel Rising Stars everyone is included. Anyone can audition and can possibly become the next Rising Star. This year there will be some additions in terms of production including a wild card slot. All you have to do is show up on the day of the auditions and do your best,” the executive said.

It was revealed at briefing that this year, Cable and Wireless mobile subscribers would be able to participate in the voting process. The Network Executive Producer explained that their telecom rivals had approached them to sign on during the back end of last year’s series. McGlothan interjected that when C&W was initially approached before the series began, they had turned down the offer. He said he could not speak to why their competitor had passed on the opportunity before but added that the huge success of the show probably contributed to them coming on board this year.

Digicel Rising Stars kicked off its first season in the Caribbean in Jamaica in 2004, later adding Haiti and Guyana to the series. In 2005, the Eastern Caribbean was added to the series roster when St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Barbados and Grenada joined the Digicel family.

Last year, St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Anguilla were added to the Eastern Caribbean roster.

Over a hundred Kittitians and Nevisians attended the live auditions held at Ocean Terrace Inn last year and although the competition was marketed as non-gender, age or talent specific, it was mostly young singers that answered the casting call. One by one they sang their hearts out for the three local judges, Pamela Wall, Ronnie Rascal and DJ Jamsta, who sometimes doled out harsh criticisms and encouraging advice. Persons performed Rap, R&B, Soca, Gospel and Reggae tunes, hoping to be selected for the auditions that would be broadcasted regionally. Eight persons were selected and from that group, Mariece Roberts and Undaground, the twin Rap duo comprised of Yannik and Quinn Martin, made it as far as the semi-finals held in Barbados. Viewers from across the eight participating countries used the text-to-vote system to choose the winner. Kyron Baptiste of St. Vincent captured the title of Digicel Rising Star last year, and took home the grand prize of US $10,000 and a one-year production contract. St. Vincent has won the competition the past two years running.

The auditions for St. Kitts and Nevis will be held on Saturday, July 14, time and place to be announced.