Telecom body to monitor cable and Direct TV
Posted By: News
Date: 21, January 04, at 12:06 p.m.
Govt to deal with incitement of racial hatred on the airwaves
By Ria Taitt, Newsday TT
Cable and Direct TV rates may be brought under the scrutiny of the Telecommunications Authority. And Government is also adamant that it would not tolerate any incitement to racial hatred and ethnic divisiveness on local television and radio stations. It plans to use the law to deal "expeditiously" with any violations. These are some of the principles contained in the National Policy on Broadcast and the Broadcast Industry which was laid in the Senate yesterday by Public Administration and Informa-tion Minister, Dr Lenny Saith. The document also states that Government would consider bringing cable and Direct TV rates under the purview of the Telecommunication Authority if the monopoly situation in these sub-sectors persists. Stating that the Government viewed as unacceptable the existence of monopolies in the cable television and direct-to-home satellite television, the document said that in order to introduce competition to the sector Government would work towards offering additional licences for both wired and wireless services to the public.
The document also announced that cable and direct-to-home satellite TV operators would be required to make available devices which would give subscribers the option to block access to channels and programming which subscribers consider unsuitable for viewing. In the eight-page document, Govern-ment also expressed concern about the fact that Tobago was being "under-served" by existing licences in radio broadcasting. "Government will take more stringent steps to ensure that when national broadcast licences are issued, transmission in Tobago is given equal priority, as is transmission in Trinidad. Furthermore, the award of community licences will also be put under more stringent scrutiny," it said, adding that it was Government’s intention that Tobago was not under-served.
Noting that there was a school of thought that there should be a mandatory percentage for local content in the commercial broadcasting sector, it said Government felt it was contrary to both the country’s Constitution and the tenets of free enterprise to legislate content from the broadcast industry. Saying that such a move would be counterproductive, the document stated: "local output in all fields, including culture, must develop the resilience for the tough competitive environment of the modern world." The document stated however that Government would enter into dialogue with the broadcasting industry to decide on a voluntarily imposed quota for local content on the television and radio stations of the country. On the issue of the Internet, the document stated that Government would develop effective mechanisms on an on-going basis to deal with matters such as: the promotion of a rating and filtering system to help users control Internet exposure in the home; illegal material on the Internet and intellectual property rights.
Addressing the issue of the Public Broadcasting Service, the document stated that the PBS must serve the interests of all people. It shall be characterised by objectivity, trustworthiness and transparency and shall be an instrument for the positive social and cultural evolution and enrichment of Trinidad and Tobago. On the issue of the spectrum, the document stated that discipline and prudent management of the spectrum was needed. It said that a deadline period would be imposed from the date of issue of a licence for an applicant to establish and operate the broadcast system for which the licence has been granted. At the expiration of the deadline, the licence shall be revoked and the assigned frequency/spectrum returned to the regulatory body. In laying the document, Saith said it was the first ever comprehensive policy produced for the development and regulation of the broadcasting industry in this country. "It aims to create a framework for creativity, entrepreneurial activity, responsibility, modernisation and capacity to face the challenges of competition and change in the industry," the Minister said.
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