Wed | Nov 29, 2023

One year later Cordel Green reflects on BCJ’s ban on scamming songs

Commends effort by radio, TV stations to ‘tighten oversight of content for broadcast’

Published:Sunday | November 19, 2023 | 12:11 AMYasmine Peru - Senior Gleaner Writer
Executive Director Broadcasting Commission Cordel Green.
Executive Director Broadcasting Commission Cordel Green.

In October last year, the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) dealt what was at the time was perceived by some to be a serious blow to the lyrical mastery and creativity of a whole new generation of dancehall artistes in particular when it announced the immediate ban on the playing of music that promotes or glorifies lottery scamming, the use of the illicit drug Molly, and illegal guns.

The commission said in its 2022 statement that the directive to radio stations reinforced its commitment to keeping airwaves free of harmful content given the important role traditional media still play as agents of socialisation.

“The use of the public airwaves to broadcast songs that promote/glorify illegal activity could give the wrong impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society. It could also unwittingly lend support to moral disengagement and further normalise criminality among vulnerable and impressionable youth, and the young adult demographic,” the commission’s statement said in part.

The BCJ ban covers the transmission of:

– Any audio or video recording, live song, or speech which promotes and/or glorifies scamming, illegal use or abuse of drugs (eg Molly), illegal or harmful use of guns or other offensive weapons, “jungle justice”, or any other form of illegal or criminal activity;

– Any edited song which directly or indirectly promotes scamming, illegal drugs, illegal or harmful use of guns or other offensive weapons, jungle justice, or any form of illegal or criminal activity. This includes live editing and original edits (eg edits by producer/label) as well as the use of near-sounding words as substitutes for offensive lyrics, expletives, or profanities.

The uproar that followed involved howls of protest about trespassing on creative freedom from some producers and artistes, a lot of which was bathed in cynicism and mockery of the new rules. A disgruntled disc jockey summed up the feelings and mood of many when he declared defiantly, “Mi go just play wah mi feel fi play.”

One year later, BCJ boss Cordel Green, who remained unruffled in the heat of the blowback, is declaring that he has seen a definite effort by radio and television stations to tighten oversight of content for broadcast.

Sunday Entertainment had a quick chat with Green who gave an update.

It’s one year since you started quite a brouhaha with new regulations regarding the halting of transmission on radio and television of any recorded material that glorifies violence. Has the BCJ observed adherence to these regulations by the parties involved?

I like your description, ‘brouhaha’. Frankly, there was an overreaction to what was normal regulatory action in response to a particular challenge when there was a deluge of songs promoting scamming being played in full or sampled on radio and television. What I will say is: I reiterate that we do not seek to regulate which artistes choose to enforce the rules and obligations which govern regulated media. I can say that we are not receiving any widespread public concerns about scamming songs or detecting widescale violations of the directive.

We have also seen a definite effort by radio and TV stations to tighten oversight of content for broadcast.

These efforts include the strengthening of programme managers and library involvement in the selection of content, changes to how content is sampled, changes to music charts, requests for meetings between broadcast managers and BCJ on content standards, invitations for the BCJ to make presentations to staff; and participation of on-air staff/producers, etc in content standards training sessions that are hosted by the Broadcasting Commission.

Do you anticipate greater or less cooperation in the future and are the complaints about loss of freedom still being expressed?

In that regard, we continue to deal with complaints or detected violations as they occur, in the normal course of operations. Where these occur, our approach is to deal with each case on its own particular set of facts, as context is always a relevant consideration when a regulator balances tensions between freedom of expression and potentially harmful content.

At the time you had cautioned that regulations were also coming for the Internet. How close are you to that reality?

Matters pertaining to the Internet fall in the policy domain but you would have taken note of a recent JIS report that the minister of information has called on BCJ to give attention to the challenge of disinformation/fake news which is a problem wordwide. BCJ will be consulting widely on this in the coming year.

And are there any further regulations for radio and television?

A new Content Code has been developed to replace the 2015 Children’s Code for Programming. Consultations are underway with industry on the code. There will be wide public consultations in the coming year. In 2024 BCJ will also be organising a series of debates and panels on topics such as the psychosocial impact of music, generational differences in perception of music, public attitude to fake news and other issues, to inform recommendations to the Government.