JIS News

Minister of Information, Senator Burchell Whiteman has disclosed that the availability of spectrum to broadcast on Jamaica’s FM band is almost exhausted, and as such, prospective media entities seeking broadcast licences should now instead, consider airing on the AM frequency. He affirmed that the overall thrust must be the move towards digital broadcasting.
Addressing key media industry players at a briefing convened by Commerce, Science and Technology Minister, Phillip Paulwell and himself, at Jamaica House today (February 7), Minister Whiteman explained that up to December last year, only two FM bands remained available to be granted licences by the government for islandwide broadcast.
This is against the background of FM radio stations in Jamaica, which broadcast on frequencies 88 to 108, nearing a saturation level.
According to Minister Whiteman, the list of prospective applicants and those who have shown an interest in obtaining broadcasting licences far exceeded the available spectrum.
The Minister told the media executives that the Spectrum Management Authority (SMA) presented a paper to the Information Committee of Cabinet last November, outlining the exhaustive capacity on the FM band.
Subsequent to the submission of the paper, he said a working group was set up, including senior management personnel from the key regulatory agencies, the SMA, and the Broadcasting Commission.
To date, he said the working group has examined “the assignment of the limited remaining spectrum using additional transparent criteria, consistent with the law and consistent with the national interest”.
Additionally, the group also looked at the short-term measures to optimise the use of the current available spectrum and also the long-term solution to Jamaica’s spectrum availability problems.
Given the limitations of the almost exhausted FM band, the Information Minister proposed that the AM band, which currently had 90 unassigned channels, could serve as an alternative in the short term. While noting that the SMA acknowledged that there were technical challenges associated with AM, the band could be used to address some of the demand.
“The government fully recognises the need to facilitate private sector participation and entrepreneurship, while reforming existing policy and regulatory arrangements where possible,” he advised the media executives.
Minister Whiteman said March 31 has been designated as a deadline, at which time the government would make further decisions about granting broadcast licences.
Turning to the burgeoning media that were digital audio broadcasting (DAB), he pointed out that in respect of DAB and digital terrestrial television broadcasting, the government would have to examine several factors.
These factors, he said, would include, “the standards that we are going to adopt, the appropriate reference models, and the timeframe and model for transition to digital broadcasting”.
Minister Whiteman stressed that as the digital revolution kept apace globally, it was incumbent on the government and the media to work together to use the technology to their benefit.
“Our goals must include increased access to the Jamaican and Caribbean content at home and abroad as well as continuing to foster local innovation and entrepreneurship,” he emphasised, adding that another important goal was ensuring that Jamaica and Jamaicans benefited from the use of the best technology to enhance such daily aspects of their lives in such areas as education, commerce and health.

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