Tue | Dec 6, 2016

CVM exclusive broadcast rights a violation of viewers' rights

Published:Saturday | September 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Kerry Washington stars as Olivia Pope in the hit series 'Scandal', one of several that CVM has included among its suite of dramas. - File

THE EDITOR, Sir:

There is growing concern among consumers that CVM Television's rapidly expanding list of exclusive broadcast rights for popular American television programmes will lead to discomfort for viewers, many of whom were long-time fans of those shows.

It is grossly unfair for CVM to purchase exclusive rights to a suite of popular programmes that air on American cable television, sift them through their own subjective family-oriented filter, presumably to ensure compliance with the Broadcasting Commission, and then go even further by instructing cable operators to cease airing the programmes so that paid subscribers are now compelled to watch old episodes of their favourite programmes on CVM after they have been sterilised to remove any content CVM deems taboo.

Breach of basic right

Besides the obvious breach of the basic right of citizens to decide on the medium through which they choose to consume the lawful content they have a subscription for, it needs to be determined once and for all whether the acquisition of an exclusive broadcast right, as is often secured by local free-to-air stations, mandates cable operators to breach the service contracts they have with subscribers by blocking the content on these paid services.

Is there a legal imperative for the cable operators to comply with this seemingly unreasonable demand, and if so, what is the authority?

What is the recourse for the consumer whose service is interrupted because of a governing contractual relationship that he/she was never privy to, that is, between free-to-air broadcaster and content creator/distributor?

Are the distribution rights and other licences for broadcast of foreign content not already subsumed within the subscription fees of cable services, and if not, is this feasible?

Is it the Broadcasting Commission or the Consumer Affairs Commission that has oversight responsibility for this and other uncomfortable situations?

CVM's decision to block cable content is perceived by many as a ruse designed to force consumers to watch that station in order to follow the latest popular shows. Ensnaring the consumer through the elimination of competition might have been seen as a clever business move by the management of the station, but, if executed in the proposed manner, it will achieve nothing but further entrench resentment from a public that has not forgotten the 2012 London Olympics fiasco that also came about because CVM acquired an exclusive broadcast right.

This latest move is seen as yet another nail in the coffin of a television station that for a time was seen as the hip, smart, and youthful alternative to the old regime of Jamaican television. CVM must realise that, with the introduction of video on demand and other innovative services, broadcast media, as operators knew it, is no more. CVM must adapt in order to attract and maintain customers, instead of threatening consumer freedom by forcing them to watch favourite programmes in a way they do not want to, otherwise, those consumers will exercise their freedom by simply switching off the television.

BRIAN-PAUL WELSH

brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com