The Broadcasting Commission and the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), the media and the political parties have forged a voluntary agreement to cease the broadcasting and publication of advertisements and opinion polls for one full day leading up to the December 29 General Election.
The agreement was announced Wednesday December 14, 2011 at a press briefing, convened by the Broadcasting Commission and the ECJ at the Commission, Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston.
Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, Professor Hopeton Dunn, said that the arrangement would introduce new cut-off times for election campaigning, political advertising and the release of opinion poll results.
He said that, as part of their voluntary undertaking, the political parties have agreed to cease political broadcasts and campaign advertising from midnight on December 27, 2011, on radio and television, and to provide no new ads on the Internet.
In considering this commitment, both print and electronic media have also voluntarily decided to discontinue disseminating political broadcasts and media campaign advertising, in the same timeframe ahead of the start of polling.
“They therefore create, for the first time in Jamaica, a campaign-free period of at least one full day ahead of voting,” he said. “This means that all electronic media organisations will stop carrying political campaign ads from midnight on December 27, through to the opening of polls at 7 a.m. on December 29.”
For national daily newspapers, this means that no campaign political ads will appear in the December 28 and December 29 editions.
As it regards opinion polls, the political parties have agreed that no results from any new opinion poll or of any unscientific opinion survey will be released to the public, within 48 hours of the start of voting in the General Elections.
He also noted that the agreement encompassed the full range of all media houses in Jamaica, including radio, television and print, and follow extensive and successive rounds of consultations by the ECJ with the political parties and the Broadcasting Commission with the media owners.
Professor Dunn noted that the arrangement now effectively secure for the public a period of at least one full day free of election campaigning on the ground, without partisan political advertising in the media over this period.
“Certain other aspects of the voluntary agreement by the political parties mirror existing provisions in the broadcasting regulations, and indicate the close collaboration that has taken place between these two national Commissions,” he stated.
The other provisions, he said, include the requirements for fair play in airtime allocation, and the awarding of equivalent concessions in financial arrangements for advertising and other broadcasts.
Chairman of the ECJ, Professor Errol Miller noted that the arrangement represented “a small step for the two Commissions, one giant step for the country”.
“We appreciate the voluntary agreements by the media houses and the press, because what that does for us is to bring about a wider set of arrangement, which in the end will change society,” he said.
By Athaliah Reynolds, JIS Reporter