Letter of the Day | No Internet overreach desired
The Editor, Sir:
On July 11, 2017, The Gleaner published an editorial that raised a number of important and valid points. The Broadcasting Commission welcomes this contribution to the discourse about the opportunities and challenges of the digital age. However, we would like to clarify a few points with regard to the role of regulators in this emerging digital society.
We are strongly opposed to empire-building, mission-creep or overreach by regulatory agencies. We believe that any regulation or other form of market intervention should be clearly necessary and justified, and that all regulation should be as light-touch and cost-effective as possible.
However, it is also very important to understand that no Government could, should or will play the part of a passive spectator as the digital society evolves. No socio-economic system can function without clear rules, and it is the job of Government to ensure that the rules are working properly.
NEW APPROACH FOR DIGITAL ECONOMY
It is true - as we have pointed out on a number of occasions - that the digital economy will require a new approach to setting and enforcing market rules, and the Broadcasting Commission is currently consulting with all the stakeholders to develop a modern framework for media regulation in Jamaica.
We believe that this framework must be founded on core principles. We believe that it is very important to develop a model of regulation that encourages innovation, fosters entrepreneurship, supports economic development and growth, allows redress against a monopoly or other market abuse, corrects a market failure, or prevents social harm.
The digital economy has enormously expanded the range of opportunities for innovation in education, the arts, manufacturing and commerce. Sadly, it has also greatly expanded the range of opportunities for causing harm. Paedophiles use social media to groom vulnerable children. Terrorist organisations use social media to recruit disaffected youth.
CAUGHT OFF GUARD
Many governments and even the giant social-media companies have been caught off guard by the sheer scale of the problem and are scrambling to respond to these new challenges.
It would be a serious misunderstanding to think that Government could or should confine itself to merely "managing spectrum and bandwidth". It would also be a serious mistake to think that industry will be able and willing to solve the problems listed above, as they have clearly failed to do so to date.
The Gleaner is correct, of course, in saying that communications technologies such as the printing press, the telegraph, the telephone, radio and television were all disruptive in their day, but were then absorbed by society. It is also true, however, that the current situation is unprecedented. We have never before had to cope with the scale and complexity of the challenges facing us now.
The Broadcasting Commission wants to see Jamaica realise the wonderful potential of the digital economy. However, if we do not address the harms and risks listed above and take appropriate action, our transition to the digital economy will be seriously hampered and our society could be profoundly harmed. Regulation - provided it is done properly - should provide the stable conditions needed to support development and growth.
We would be failing in our duty if we did not bring these critical emerging problems to the attention of the Government and the people of Jamaica and develop proposals for the new approach needed. Ultimately, the best outcome will be an informed citizenry, helped by our programmes on media and digital literacy.