Broadcasting Commission Focusing on Operators Who Continue to Flout the Law


The quality of on-air broadcasting in Jamaica continues to dissatisfy the Broadcasting Commission, the regulatory body for electronic media, broadcast radio and television, as well as subscriber television.
This is despite marginal improvements in documented complaints about violations of the broadcasting laws and regulations in Jamaica.
In the 21 months between January 2006 and September 2007, the Commission found 26 violations among radio and television licensees and this is among a large number of other complaints and infringements, which may not have caught the eye of the regulator. “These breaches include the broadcasting of expletives on the air, graphic sexual language, the frequent use of music lyrics that glorify gun violence and content that is regarded as inappropriate for children sometimes transmitted in prime time,” Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, Dr. Hopeton Dunn outlined recently at a JIS Think Tank.
Elaborating on the outcomes of the various incidents during the period under review, he said that there were 16 instances where broadcasting and cable licensees were required to transmit apologies for misconduct as directed by the Commission. Two broadcasters were also instructed to correct serious technical deficiencies such as the absence of crucial delay or output recording devices and there were 21 instances where broadcasters were required to demonstrate corrective action or face recommendation for the suspension of their licences.
For Executive Director of the Commission, Cordel Green, one of the most irksome problems is that of “bleeping”.
“We have recognized for a long time that people are entitled to edit content to ensure that if there is something problematic you make it appropriate for airplay. We are not satisfied with flayed and flawed attempt to disguise problematic content,” he said.
“How we deal with it in terms of the legal construct is a question we are examining now because it is not just about the inappropriateness. There is also a quality issue that is arising if you are tuning into a radio station and you constantly hear bleeps and noise. it does raise a question about broadcast quality,” he continued.
Dr. Dunn had strong words for those media outlets that continue to flout the law. “The Commission and the Government will have to take action to preserve in the landscape, a civilized and reasonable output, and not to have on the air dismembered, disjointed and inappropriately edited content in an attempt to circumvent the regulations. Those things the Commission will simply not ignore and we will have to address them,” he warned. In relation to the cable sector, Dr. Dunn said that the Commission continued to have far too many complaints and again stressed that it would continue to crackdown on the violations, in line with the laws of the country.
In recent times the complaints received by the Commission centred on the quality of the technical output and customer service. “We do continue to receive complaints about inappropriate content but that is largely around what are called niche channels, some of them intended for adult audiences but people nonetheless complain about the content and express their opinions about material that should or should not be transmitted in Jamaica,” Mr. Green noted.
The Commission, the Executive Director said, is loathe to prescribe on questions of choice. “We are not a censorship board but we feel very strongly that there is something that is intolerable for transmission irrespective of selectivity of audiences or interest in the material,” he said.
Mr. Green cited as examples the transmission of children attending and participating in adult events and caught in circumstances that are inappropriate as well as other developments involving videos for voyeurism filmed at dance sessions particularly in circumstances where it is apparent that the person being taped is not performing or willingly acceding to being recorded.
“These are matters that are under review by the Commission in the latest round of consultations [with relevant parties] on output and will inform future regulatory action,” he said.
The Commission invites the public to continue to bring to its attention instances of violations as it remains committed to ensuring that all breaches are addressed in a firm, fair and timely manner.

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