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Media owners slam BCJ over molly, gun music ban; claim no consultation done

Published:Friday | October 14, 2022 | 6:42 AM

The group representing media owners in Jamaica has accused the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) of an "overreach" with its recent ban on music glorifying criminality, as well as pursuing the measure without consultations.  

On Tuesday, the commission announced an immediate ban on the playing of music that, among other things, promotes lottery scamming, the use of the illicit drug Molly, and illegal guns.

The commission said the directive to radio and television stations reinforces its commitment to keeping airwaves free of harmful content, given the important role traditional media still plays as an agent of socialisation.

But the Media Association of Jamaica (MAJ) says it was never approached before the regulator announced the measure, even as it declares that members "unanimously align with the intent of ridding the airwaves of music which is unfit for airplay" because "all Jamaican stakeholders need to band together and do what is necessary to stem the stimulants of deteriorating social behaviours and a growing crime situation". 

Noting that it is a "staunch supporter of self-regulation and defender of freedoms to include freedom of expression", the group said "any initiative with the potential impact of curtailing rights and freedoms cannot be taken lightly, as there are often knock-on effects on other freedoms, and must be robustly and adequately ventilated before decisions made or directives given". 

"Where does social commentary end and glorification start? Social commentary is a necessary element of our society whether through speech, music, or theatre," it argued.

The group has pointed to sections of the ban it claims show an "overreach" in the BCJ's ban.

"In some respects, the BCJ directives are being characterised as an overreach where it also extends beyond music and into speech. Further indication of overreach appear where the directives apply to adequately sanitised radio edits of songs in which no element of the played song breaches any code."

It added: "The MAJ is unaware of any attempt by the BCJ to consult with the industry as a group ...We have tried this before. What lessons have we learned? A consultative approach is preferred to what presents as a sledgehammer solution". 

The MAJ said the commission should present a list of the songs it analysed to help determine solutions and which "avoids ambiguity with respect to the intent of these new directives and allows for efficient application of the new measures to substantial catalogues of music held by its members". 

The group said it is ready to meet with the BCJ on the matter.

On Wednesday, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Information Robert Morgan, poured cold water on the argument that the Government is using the BCJ to battle crime in censoring radio content.

He said that where the Government has control over spaces, it must set the standard and an example of what is deemed appropriate.

“We're not fettering people's right to free speech. There are so many other portals you can use to promote your artistic freedom … . It's not about fighting crime. It is about decency and standards,” he argued.

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