House Extends Licensing Period for Cable Operators


The House of Representatives on Tuesday (Jan. 25), passed amendments to the Broadcasting and Re-diffusion Act to extend the licensing period for Subscriber Television (SSTV) operators.
Minister of Education, Youth and Culture, Maxine Henry Wilson, who piloted the Bill, which had came to the Lower House from the Senate, explained that the amendment was in recognition of the liberalization of the telecommunications industry and the need for cable operators to be able to take advantage of the resulting commercial opportunities.
She pointed that because of the short period of time allowed for licensing under the current legislation, the cable operators have found it quite difficult to obtain the level of financial support that they needed to build their enterprise. Mrs. Henry Wilson noted for example, that with the liberalization of the Telecommunications Act, cable providers could now provide last mile Internet service. However, with the short time period allowed for licensing, “many find that they are unable to get the level of financial assistance that they need, because financial institutions are reluctant to provide them with support given the fact that the six year period is sometimes not seen as being able to bring to fruition, their commercial plans,” she stated.
As a consequence, she said, the cable licencees were not fulfilling their potential, even though the industry itself was expanding. “It is for this reason that these amendments are being brought. They will have significant consequences for the entire telecommunications industry and in particular the wider network of media and communications services,” she indicated.
The amendment will extend the six-year time frame to a period that the Minister may determine to be justifiable.
“Any extension that is granted will be with the full concurrence of the Broadcasting Commission, and is based on whatever business plans that will be presented to the Commission by the applicants,” the Minister said.
She noted that while consideration was given to stipulating a fixed period for the validity of licences having regard to the fast changing technology and other related variables, which now affected the sector, it was felt that this approach might result in far too frequent amendments to the Act to lengthen the period of time. All STV licences granted, will remain valid for the period indicated in the licence, which also provides sanctions for failure to comply with direction given by the Commission.
Member of Parliament for Central St. Catherine, Olivia “Babsy” Grange supported the Bill, stating that the Opposition was committed to the development of this area of broadcasting, entertainment and education, as “we see it as a vital link in the whole communications network. I believe that where people are willing to take the chance of investing their hard earned cash, especially new investments like cable and subscriber television, they should be given ample opportunity”.

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