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Criminalisation of payola closer

Broadcasting Commission wraps talks with stakeholders

BY BASIL WALTERS Observer writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, February 12, 2013    

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EXECUTIVE Director of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica Cordel Green says the entity has wrapped up talks with local media entities over a raft of measures being introduced to deal with the vexing issue of payola.

Payola refers to the soliciting or accepting of cash from individuals in exchange for airplay.

Speaking at the RedBones Blues Cafe in New Kingston last Friday night, Green put the blame for payola squarely on the shoulders of media owners.

"It is clear to us at the Broadcasting Commission that what accounts for the disconnect between some electronic media content and the reality of our expansive and dynamic music output is a convergence of corruption in the form of payola and poor quality control by media owners," he said.

He announced that his team had met, last week Wednesday, with presenters, producers and managers at Television Jamaica (TVJ), in what was the final in a series of sensitisation meetings across the country with cable operators and independent programme providers who operate local cable channels.

Green, who has been at the helm of the commission since 2001, chose to share the proposed interventions with the diverse industry players who comprised the audience at Friday night's Conscious Reggae Party, for which former Third World band member Bunny Rugs was the main attraction.

"Firstly, we are talking directly to radio announcers, DJs and VJs, about the requirements for higher standards," he said.

Secondly, Green continued, "The Broadcasting Commission is tightening the management requirements for operating radio and television stations. This includes recommendations that financial sanctions of a quarter-of-a-million dollars be applied for breaching broadcasting quality standards," he said.

"Thirdly, it will be mandated that all content for broadcast must be received, evaluated and approved through a library. We are intent on cutting out the one-man show, where people who produce music get airplay based on who they know or can pay. The library is to be a central operational feature of broadcasting again," the former broadcaster stressed.

"Fourthly," he added, "we have recommended that payola be criminalised with a mandatory fine of $5 million. We have also recommended that copyright requirements be strengthened with a fine of one million dollars for the use of content, including music, without a licence."

Green also reiterated the Broadcasting Commission's mission to directly engage with youth who are the perceived drivers of demand for musical content through a programme that was launched nationally in 2011.

The problem, he noted, is not so much the quality of the music being produced, but the type that is being chosen for exposure based on the flawed premise of giving the people what they want.

Pointing to events such as Rebel Salute, Western Consciousness and the Conscious Party, Green said these shows had proven that Jamaican music retains its high standards, in some cases, and is more varied than some people on local radio and television would have the country believe.

Asked about the timetable for the implementation of these recommendations, Green explained that they should be submitted to Cabinet shortly and are now in the hands of the minister of information.

"They (the recommendations) are with the minister of information. But I know what accounts for the delay in them going forward is that the Media Association of Jamaica requested further consultations with the minister, and she allowed them additional time," Green told the Observer.

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