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Who'll win the cable war? - Regulator plays down rift with OPM despite more indications that order to stop broadcasting 19 channels will be reversed

Published:Sunday | May 24, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding

Executive director of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) Cordel Green is downplaying reports that the entity is on a collision course with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

Green's comments came late last week even as more indications emerge that the OPM, armed with advice from the Office of the Attorney General, is set to reverse BCJ's decision to order cable companies to stop showing 19 channels which they have no licences for.

According to Green, it is incorrect to say that the BCJ is not on the same page as the OPM.

"It is not the intention or the desire of the BCJ to be on a collision course with the attorney general or the Office of the Prime Minister," Green told The Sunday Gleaner as he apologised to cable operators who felt insulted by the insinuations surrounding the commission's seize and desist order.

"Any inadequacy in recognising their level of cooperation was unintended," said Green. "I want to take the opportunity to be unequivocal on this point, which is that they have been fully cooperative."

Green stressed that the cable industry has been engaged in much research on the matter of legally accessing content from international providers, and cable operators established a group dedicated to working with the BCJ on the matter.

"We will not hesitate to recognise them as very good partners in this process, not just as licensees, but in a co-regulatory philosophical framework," said Green.

He said officials of the BCJ will be meeting with de facto Information Minister Sandrea Falconer and personnel from the OPM this week to hammer out issues ahead of the deadline to cease transmission of the 19 channels.

"I am framing the issues with the OPM beyond what has been in the public domain of controversia."




Green declared that all parties and stakeholders are on board as it relates to treating the matter as a trade issue, and stressed that there have been immense collaboration and cooperation with cable operators.

Chairman of the BCJ, Professor Hopeton Dunn, last week told The Gleaner that the BCJ was on the correct legal path in issuing a directive to cable operators to cease transmission of some channels.

But Falconer said that she had sought legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General and received contrasting advice.

Dunn, however, hit back, saying that he was not privy to the advice of the attorney general and was requesting a copy before proceeding.

For Green, the attorney general is the constitutional authority for guiding the Government on interpretation of law, and the opinion of the office must be respected.

"Lawyers differ all the way up to the Privy Council, but there is a convention in the Commonwealth that governments, departments, agencies and public officials must place great weight on legal opinions of the attorney general and be so guided," declared Green.

The BCJ executive director told our news team that it is the intention of the BCJ to seek clarification from the Attorney General's Office on the legal perspective it has brought to the issue, and to share with that office the BCJ's legal perspective which informed the procedure it has followed.

According to Green, efforts have been made to engage the international rights holders to ensure better access to content by Jamaican cable operators.

"It must be recalled that we have written to the chairman of HBO advancing those arguments, that it wasn't helping our regulatory work if there couldn't be legitimate access to HBO content," noted Green.