• JIS News

    The Senate, on Thursday (March 9), passed amendments to the Broadcasting and Radio Re-Diffusion Act, to expand the categories of licences granted by the government to include special subscriber television service, independent programme provider (subscription only) and other independent providers. The Bill will also empower the Information Minister to approve licences accordingly.
    Piloting the Bill, Leader of Government Business and Information Minister, Senator Burchell Whiteman, noted that the government had taken the decision to provide for the licensing of independent programme providers in a manner that would stimulate investment in, and develop the local content industry.
    “The legislative framework, which is contemplated in this Bill will, among other things, permit advertising on local cable channels where content themes are in keeping with policy objectives,” he said.
    These themes include: news and information, youth programming, recreation, sports, music, arts and culture, food and fashion, health, religion, education and lifestyle. Channels with programming that contain or promote lewd activity, depict excessive violence or obscene language, will not be allowed access to the revenue stream of advertising.
    According to Senator Whiteman, the expansion of the categories of broadcast licences proposed in the Bill, reflected the change in services in the industry.
    He said further, that the amendments would “correct terms that were used previously, improve upon the granting of licences of different kinds and offer protection to those who are denied an application and have the right of appeal to a higher authority”.
    But, Opposition Senator Dwight Nelson, while conceding that cable television had vastly improved on the ability of persons in communities to be exposed to information, queried whether a change in the existing legislation was necessary.
    He asked “what has changed to make this amendment to the law necessary.because whereas the legislation that existed specifically stated that cable television would not be allowed local advertising, except that which would be automatically shown when they carried the programme, under what is termed the ‘must carry’ provisions in their licences, what has changed now to compel the Minister to seek these amendments so as to allow these operators now to be able to seek advertising revenue”?
    He said further that, “if you are going to allow cable operators to access advertising revenue, where that cake is limited, then you must ensure that all providers are allowed to operate on a level playing field.”
    Responding, Minister Whiteman said that, “much had indeed changed” in the industry over the last few years, pointing out that there was a “new category of programme provider, which had not been originally contemplated to begin with.”
    On the matter of the level playing filed for advertising, the Information Minister said, “we have seriously examined it and a study was done as far back as 2002, which came to the conclusion on the basis of evidence, that the market could sustain free-to-air radio, television and also advertising on cable.”
    He pointed out that while there were no guarantees of protection, given the level of competitiveness in the market, “the study indicated that it was possible to have access to advertising on cable and at the same time protect the existing established media.”
    He noted further that, “there was enough evidence put forward to convince the government that the situation was not one that would immediately cause a shutdown of any established media house.”

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