IN SO far as we are aware, the Broadcasting Commission doesn't bray. But given its public statement on the breach-of-licence notice served on CVM Television, you might have thought it did.
CVM is primarily a free-to-air television station, about whose "level and quality of service" the Broadcasting Commission says it has long had concern. The parishes of Portland, St Thomas, St Mary, Clarendon, Manchester and Trelawny are the areas of major gripe.
So, this week the commission, according to its public statement, told CVM to immediately take steps to:
(a) Fulfil the obligation of its licence to provide islandwide coverage;
(b) Immediately inform the public on the extent to which it will provide islandwide coverage during the period of the Olympic Games; and
(c) In those areas where the station cannot assure full coverage, work out with its content providers for the Olympics, "including alternative distribution arrangements", ways to ensure that viewers have access to the coverage of the Games.
The Broadcasting Commission's statement implies that it is primarily concerned with the geographic area of coverage rather than the absolute number and/or percentage of Jamaican households with television sets that would have access to CVM's signal. Both, of course, the Broadcasting Commission would be aware, are not the same thing.
Exclusive broadcast rights
The background to this issue is that CVM negotiated exclusive Jamaican broadcast rights to the Olympics from International Media Content (IMC), which holds the rights for the Games for the Caribbean.
Apparently, the commission, having done a survey of the noted parishes, is not satisfied that CVM, despite recent upgrading efforts, will deliver Olympic coverage to all who will want to see the Games.
Now, here is where we perceive that funny noise by the commission. Said its statement: "CVM was further notified that failure to comply with the remedial measures will result in further regulatory action pursuant to Section 22 of the Broadcasting and Radio Re-diffusion Act."
That section of the law allows the responsible minister, on a recommendation from the commission, to, in the first instance, suspend a broadcast licence for up to three months, and if a broadcaster remains non-compliant, to cancel it.
More harm than good
The mildest of these sanctions, in the circumstances, that, to the say the least, would be asinine to implement. For, at this eleventh hour, it would serve only to compound the mischief it was intended to cure. More Jamaicans, than is now the case, would be deprived of coverage of the Olympics.
The Broadcasting Commission has conceded that it has "no control over the private broadcast arrangements" between CVM and IMC. So its suggestion for "alternative distribution arrangements" could hardly be taken as a directive to hand off CVM's exclusive broadcast rights to other persons.
Yet, here is where a thoughtful commission might have been of value early on if it felt the broadcast of the Olympics transcended commercial arrangements to deeper national value - which is emerging to be the case, given that so much of the celebration of our 50th anniversary of Independence is built around the Games.
In that regard, the commission might have used its 'good offices' to propose a different, and wider, application rights, which we suspect would have wrung more net advertising value from the market.
That, though, would have required not muscle, but creative thinking.
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