The Broadcasting Commission is proposing an “equitable” license fee for all players in the sector, to finance its regulatory system.
Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Hopeton Dunn, has pointed out that, currently, the broadcasting side of the industry, including radio stations and free to air television companies, does not contribute to the cost of regulation, leaving the burden solely on the shoulders of subscriber television or cable operators.
Speaking at a press conference at the Commission’s headquarters in New Kingston on Wednesday (November 10), Dr. Dunn outlined a number of proposals for the reformation of the electronic media policy, laws and regulations. The recommendations are based on an August 2009 Media Policy Report compiled by the Canadian research company, Nordicity Consulting Group, and sanctioned by the Commission.
Executive Director of the Broadcasting Commission, Cordel Green (right), jokes with Commissioner, Dr. Elaine Wallace, following a press briefing at the Commission’s head office in New Kingston on Wednesday (November 10).
“It noted that, in this respect, a structural inequity exists between regulated players across the industry, and this contributes to unevenness in the competitive environment,” Dr. Dunn said.
He stated that the report recommended that the license fee regime be extended to cover all licensees in the market and that, in doing so, Government and the regulator should consider the viability of all the players.
“There are now 28 radio stations in operation in Jamaica, 18 of them (operate) islandwide. There are also three free to air television stations, all privately operated. At the present time, none of these licensed entities make any contribution to the considerable cost of regulation,” Dr. Dunn noted.
He said this happens, despite the fact that a significant portion of the Commission’s resources are expended on broadcasting issues, such as protection against spectrum interference, conducting content standards investigations, monitoring copyright compliance, overseeing technical output and monitoring national geographical coverage levels.
Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, Dr. Hopeton Dunn (left), in discussion with Executive Director, Cordel Green, prior to the start of a media briefing at the Commission’s office in New Kingston on Wednesday (November 10).
“In these circumstances, it is simply inequitable and unjustifiable to continue with an arrangement which places the burden of the cost of this regulation entirely on the cable sector,” Dr. Dunn remarked.
He said, moreover, it is accepted worldwide that, in order to be independent, the broadcasting regulator must be able to function free from financial imbalance, interference or pressures from political or economic forces. One such vital element in ensuring its independence is a secure, diverse and consistent means of funding.
“This is achieved when the cost of regulation is borne by each component of the sector that is being regulated,” he stated.
He said this was supported by evidence from other reputable regulatory bodies globally, including in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago and Australia. Dr. Dunn however did not say how much he believed broadcasters should pay, and within what timeline such recommendations should be implemented.
He dismissed public statements suggesting that a recommendation has been made to the government proposing that broadcasters pay 5 per cent of gross revenues as a tax on their operations.
“While making it clear that radio and television broadcasters should not be exempt from license fees, as now obtains, the Media Policy Report does not specify any level of contribution to be paid by broadcasters,” he stated.