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Blow to gay ad - TVJ rejects J-FLAG’s PSA

J-FLAG says rejection of PSA unfortunate

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 17, 2011    

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THE push by the gay lobby — Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG) — to air a public service announcement (PSA) encouraging families to embrace homosexual members may not see the light of day.

The PSA, which features former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe Christine Straw and her gay brother Matthew Straw encouraging Jamaicans to show love to their family members and friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, was launched last month. J-FLAG was hoping to have the PSA aired on national TV this month.

However, Television Jamaica (TVJ), one of the island's major television stations, says it will not be carrying the PSA at this time, citing concerns about the structure of the announcement, among other things.

In the meantime, it remained unclear if CVM, the other major television station, would consider carrying the pro-gay advert, which would be a first in Jamaica where buggery is a criminal offence.

"No comment" was the response from the CVM Group's vice-president for marketing and sales Ronnie Sutherland.

Gary Allen, managing director of TVJ's parent company — the RJR Communications Group — told the Observer yesterday that after considering the request, it was decided that the PSA would not be carried at this time.

"They are presenting the particular ad as a public service announcement and in our business a public service announcement has specific meaning; it is not necessarily something that you would pay for. But even where you pay for PSAs the station would retain the right to determine if this is something that it would like to be identified with, because then normally we would say that it is done in association or it is supported by the particular station," Allen said. The station, he added, was not consulted or had any input in creating the pro-gay advertisement.

Allen said, too, that the group also took into consideration the reactions of pastors who were quoted in a recently published Sunday Observer article, which saw a number of them taking issue with homosexual lifestyles.

"We considered whether we would air it in the context of public opinion and that there has been significant public opinion to consider, particularly the response of the church to the prospects to the ad being aired which was contained in your newspaper," Allen said.

The article 'Gay TV advert angers clerics' saw pastors maintaining a long-held view that the lifestyle of homosexuals is ungodly and should therefore not be endorsed.

Milton Gregory, executive secretary for Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, was quoted as saying that "The ad itself can become repulsive for many people in society."

Other pastors shared similar views. They included associate pastor of the Tower Hill Missionary Church in Kingston and former journalist, Mark Dawes, who suggested that the church needed to be more vocal in denouncing the homosexual lifestyle.

"As innocuous and as innocent as that public service announcement might appear, it is part of a wider plan by militant homosexuals to gradually desensitise Jamaicans to homosexuality, so that homosexual behaviour and practice can become mainstream in Jamaica," he said.

But apart from the structure of the advertisement and public opinion, Allen said the group also did not want to be seen as contravening the laws in promoting an ad advocating for tolerance of homosexual activities, since some aspects of the lifestyle is still illegal in Jamaica.

"There are some homosexual activity that are still against the law in Jamaica and therefore not until the states decide to change that would we feel comfortable running such a campaign...," he said.

Yesterday, a disappointed Dane Lewis, executive director of J-FLAG, confirmed that the group had received a letter dated August 9, 2011 from the RJR Communications Group expressing the reasons for its refusal to air the PSA. He said the LGBT community was disappointed by the news, since the advertisement was intended to promote acceptance and love for members within this group.

"It is unfortunate that this is the stance that is being taken. They (LGBT) have all experienced on some level some kind of discrimination, and so it is time for this kind of message to be shared with the wider public," he said.

He said the group was continuing its discussion with CVM, the other media organisation approached to air the PSA. "We are actually in negotiation, so let's see where those discussions lead. We still intend to have it aired, that is our ultimate desire," he said.

"One station did express that they are willing to broadcast it, if the other was willing to, so we should be able to make some headway shortly," the J-FLAG spokesman said.

He remained optimistic that the advertisement would be aired some day. "Since we are not directly or indirectly promoting anything that is illegal, love is not illegal, we don't see why we shouldn't be able to go forward, so we are going to continue our discussion and hope that we can quickly come to some solution to have it aired," he said.

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