PBCJ to Collaborate With Kool FM to Provide Public Service Broadcasting

Photo: JIS Photographer Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman

Story Highlights

  • Cabinet has approved in principle, an option under which the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) will be able to provide public service broadcasting by collaborating with Aerotel, through the use of frequencies now fully controlled by KOOL FM 97.
  • The PBCJ is a body created by law to encourage and propagate positive values and attitudes within the society; encourage the promotion of the arts, literature, literary and artistic expressions; the vitality of democratic institutions; the dissemination of news, information, ideas on matters of general public interest, and the development of education and training.
  • KOOL FM is a radio-broadcasting entity licenced to provide airport and weather information, primarily for the benefit of the travelling public, as well as information about Jamaica, which is valuable to Jamaicans and visitors alike.

Cabinet has approved in principle, an option under which the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) will be able to provide public service broadcasting by collaborating with Aerotel, through the use of frequencies now fully controlled by KOOL FM 97.

Making the announcement at yesterday’s (January 24) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman explained that the Aerotel/KOOL FM initiative was part of government’s means of honouring its commitment to support the PBCJ, especially in the start-up period, and to provide funding for the entity as it seeks to become fully established.

The PBCJ is a body created by law to encourage and propagate positive values and attitudes within the society; encourage the promotion of the arts, literature, literary and artistic expressions; the vitality of democratic institutions; the dissemination of news, information, ideas on matters of general public interest, and the development of education and training.

“The intention is to use the vehicle of a public broadcasting service to present the best of Jamaica in a variety of ways, consistent with high quality broadcasting in relation to content and technical quality,” Senator Whiteman said.

He noted that the exact amount of funding the government would be providing, as the law allowed, was not set as yet, but by the time the full submission on the matter was returned to Cabinet in February, there would be a sum to deliberate on.

The Governor-General has appointed the PBCJ’s 17 members, which represent a broad cross section of interests and institutions.

“There are synergies with the mandate of KOOL, which is a station with a particular purpose and function to provide airport information and other related matters, and the PBCJ, which is supposed to operate in the national interest and express the best of Jamaica to Jamaicans and others. We have decided to take advantage of the synergies that might exist between the two to facilitate the mandates of both,” Mr. Whiteman said.

However, the Information Minister pointed out that this did not preclude the use of the KOOL frequencies for other purposes during certain times of the broadcast day, as the terms of the licence so allowed.

It was in light of this that Cabinet also approved a six-month agreement between Aerotel and Nationwide News Network (NNN) for the use of the KOOL FM frequencies to broadcast news and current affairs programmes between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays, and from 12 noon to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Expounding on this, Transport and Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill said the arrangement was to allow for immediate implementation of the new model, in order to maximize anticipated benefits.

A maximum 50 hours of programming per week will be open for public bidding, and advertisement for this would begin soon.

KOOL FM is a radio-broadcasting entity licenced to provide airport and weather information, primarily for the benefit of the travelling public, as well as information about Jamaica, which is valuable to Jamaicans and visitors alike.

Minister Pickersgill explained that Aerotel had been giving consideration to making KOOL into a profit, rather than a cost centre for the agency, in order to provide a greater level of financial support for the work of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority.

“It has been giving consideration to doing this by retaining ownership of the licence, providing the basic service required of the station to satisfy its mandate and to conform with the conditions of the original licence. and requesting that the licence be amended to permit the licencee to enter into agreement with independent persons or entities for the provision of editorial and other services,” he explained.

Mr. Pickersgill noted that it was while the agency was deliberating, that an offer had come from an independent programmer, Nationwide News Network, seeking on a temporary basis, in the first instance, to pay for time on the KOOL FM frequency to transmit news and current affairs programming. “In discussing the proposal, we thought that transparency needed to be observed in the allocation of government resources or the entering into a contract with any private broadcaster, media house or business entity,” he pointed out.

The Minister informed that the recommendations that were put to Cabinet and agreed on were that, KOOL FM and the PBCJ collaborate to provide, without advertisement, the broadcast content, which allowed both entities to fulfill their mandate for 70 per cent of the air time.

In addition, that a maximum of 30 per cent of broadcasting time be contracted out in the short and medium term for the provision of content not falling within the core provisions of the licence, at an appropriate fee, which would provide KOOL and the PBCJ with financing to support its operations.

This arrangement, he said, would allow for diversification of the broadcast product, consistent with the values and objectives of Aerotel, while aligning their operations with stated government policy. It has also been recommended that such contracted party/parties be allowed to use the period of time allotted them, not being a government agency, to engage in advertising.

Government will not own or operate the PBCJ, but will provide financial support for the first two years.

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