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The Broadcasting Commission is considering a ranking system for cable operators as part of its effort to clamp down on the illegal use of content by Jamaican providers.
Members of the commission last Thursday underscored their new thrust as they noted that American content providers are pushing for their assistance to prevent use of the unauthorised use of content in the local market.
"They have been asking us to clamp down on cable companies using their content. It didn't, and hasn't, gone well at all, because all we have succeeded in doing is driving more persons into the informal sector. In fact, they don't understand why we are shutting down channels on the cable TV that they can see on the Internet anyway," Professor Anthony Clayton, chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum.
Continuing, Clayton said: "So our regulatory tools, instead of trying to make the tools work, we have to think about how the landscape is changing. And these challenges have brought a different set of problems. In fact, it is now very difficult sometimes to determine where the value is being added in the complex set of online interactions and where should we monitor."
According to him, to keep the Jamaicans informed and provide access to different sections of the island, it is contemplating changing its regulatory strategy.
"We have a very small number of large operators, a slightly larger number of mid-size operators and a large number of small operators. In practice, we have been operating a multi-tiered model of regulation, for the simple reason that some of the very small operators are covering areas which are not interesting in terms of economic returns for the bigger players," he said.
"So if we insisted that those players come up to the same standards in many cases, we would simply put them out of business in a situation where no one is competing for that area of the country. The actual result is that that area of the country would not have better service, but rather, no service."
Small cable operators to be allowed some room
Because of the uneven quality of service across the country, the Broadcasting Commission is considering allowing small cable operators some operating room.
"We have been cutting these guys a little bit more slack. And we don't want to keep doing this because we don't think it is a good situation. So what we are thinking of doing is shift from one-size-fits-all regulations to an explicit three-tier model," noted Professor Anthony Clayton, chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday.
"So you will either be a Tier One, Tier Two or Tier Three operator and we would have appropriate charge bans and appropriate set of services for them."
Clayton said the tier ranking will determine the fees payable and slightly less stringent standards by the entities, but the status will not be indefinite.
Small operators will be given a certain time, up to three years, during which time they will be adjudged as to whether they are "up to standard".
He argued that the reduction of fees will put money in the hands of the operators to be invested in technology upgrades, readying themselves for acquisition or for merger opportunities.
"Our goal is not to support any one company, it is to try and ensure that everybody in the country has access to good-quality services. So we are looking for ways to build that into our model of regulation, to encourage people to upgrade what they are doing and move into a higher tier," Clayton said.