JIS News

KINGSTON — Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, Professor Hopeton Dunn, says the agency is recommending a range of fines, with a maximum $15 million, on persons found guilty of engaging in the illicit practice of payola. 

Payola is defined as the practice of paying bribes, particularly to radio personalities, for airplay to the recordings of unknown artistes, as a means of giving them exposure. These recordings often include songs deemed inappropriate for airplay.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on Tuesday (June 21), Professor Dunn said imposition of the fines was among several recommendations the Commission made to the government, for enactment into law.

The other significant recommendation, he said, was updating the regulations governing the broadcast media, to give the Commission the power to impose the fines.

Dr. Dunn noted that this was, “something which we do not now have, and which would provide a kind of intermediary step, in terms of how we actually regulate the industry”.

He lamented that the widespread practice of payola was contributing to the exposure of material deemed inappropriate for airplay, arguing that this is “distorting what we hear on a daily basis”.

“We have been assured by the relevant portfolio Ministry that the pieces of legislation, which we have asked them to consider in the Parliament, should be going to the Parliament during this calendar year. And therefore, we look forward to that,” he disclosed.

Professor Dunn said that the information forthcoming to the Broadcasting Commission indicated that persons are paying or taking bribes amounting to as much as $350,000 to have their music played.

“This could escalate into much larger sums, if it is to give an unknown artiste a “buss”, meaning exposure to become a star. We understand that folks are having their mortgages paid, (and) folks are having opportunities to do international travel on the strength of a promise of airplay,” he said.

The Chairman contended that the practice could have a serious effect on the industry and the society, if it remains unchecked. He was, however, optimistic that the requisite legislations and regulations would be in place soon.

“We think that, by next year this time, many of these pieces of legislation should be enacted. I say that, knowing that it’s not the Broadcasting Commission that will determine whether that happens and we are going on the strength of the indications that we have received,” the Chairman said.

While conceding that apprehending the perpetrators could prove challenging, Professor Dunn said the Commission is banking on the “deterrent effects’ of the penalties, to discourage persons harbouring thoughts of engaging in payola. Additionally, he is anticipating that the provisions of legislations such as the Proceeds of Crime Act, and Protected Disclosure Act, will lend support to the Commission’s efforts at curtailing the practice of payola.