Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Letter of the Day: Cable watchdog negligent

Published:Friday | May 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM


I read the article 'Cable refunds on the way?' (Gleaner, April 29, 2015) and I share the writer's concerns.

Let me assist by enlightening the public with a resolve to answer some of the questions the writer posed.

The writer questioned: "If the cable companies have been selling the consumer 'stolen' programming, why had the Broadcasting Commission not stepped in before now and prosecuted them?"

The Broadcasting Commission is a rubber-stamp functionary and a toothless watchdog that engages in incompetent and ineffective regulation. It lacks the ability to be proactive and respectful of intellectual property rights, and it lacks the required legislative backing to execute its operations appropriately and aggressively.

It is the duty of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica to regulate the broadcast sector and ensure that compliance by its licensees is at 100 per cent at all times, failing which the licences are to be suspended or revoked for breaches of the various regulations.

Intellectual property theft/piracy is a federal crime in the United States that carries severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorised reproduction or use of copyrighted recordings, television programmes and television networks.

As you already know, the Home Box Office Inc., owner of the HBO and Cinemax pay television services, had issued a cease-and-desist order to the Broadcasting Commission in September 2009 and demanded that it direct its licensees to remove all of the logos and channels associated with HBO.

Suffice it to say that this would not be the first time that the cable/satellite television licensees in Jamaica were guilty of this federal crime.

The Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica has always contended that it regulates with standards and competency. Could any sensible person consider the repeated, flagrant violations on radio and television, despite warnings and threats, to be regulating with standards, competency and effectiveness? It is anything but!

The Broadcasting Commission would have knowingly facilitated the illegal and unauthorised reproduction of the US content, which was then sold to customers via its licensees. The commission is responsible for the "effective", "vigilant", and "no-nonsense" regulation of its licensees. It clearly did not!

When a regulator can wait until rights owners contact them about intellectual property rights infringement, as were the cases with HBO and now Starz, Encore, and Showtime, before they take decisive actions, the signal being sent is that it is neither effective nor proactive.


Refund for customers


It is interesting to note that the Commission had claimed in the past that it had satisfied itself that the licensees acquired written agreements and authorisation from content owners and service providers. Really? Why then would subscribers now lose dozens of channels? It only takes common sense to deduce, based upon the circumstances, what is acceptable in a statement.

The writer further questioned:

"Will the consumer be refunded for all the money they have spent buying goods that were not the cable companies' to sell?"

The cable operators must provide a refund, either in part or in full, to its subscribers for the promotion of these unauthorised channels.

Subscribers can also seek civil redress through the Supreme Court since the operators would have falsely advertised to them to earn revenue from the particular channels, for which no payments were remitted to the rights holders, because it wasn't for the operators to retransmit, to begin with.