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TTPBA, Govt ministers hold talks as Legal battle looms over free airtime
The T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) yesterday maintained its objection to giving free airtime to government programmes. President of the TTPBA Kiran Maharaj raised objections during yesterday’s meeting with Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed at his Nicholas Towers office.
Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal also attended the meeting, a follow-up to one in October last year. Government is seeking one hour per day of free airtime for its programming, but media owners claim the Government is seeking to dictate the content on the airwaves.
Maharaj said the TTPBA was seeking legal advice on public interest broadcast. She said the media owners continue to object to the move by the Government to have the programmes aired. In a statement given to the T&T Guardian, Maharaj said the TTPBA was “disappointed and surprised by the manner in which TV broadcasters were addressed via letters where you (Mohammed) gave a time for the programmes to be aired.”
She also said the broadcasters objected to a Government programme titled MPs Scorecard. During the meeting Mohammed apologised for any misrepresentation and misapprehension caused and said the letter was subsequently revoked. He said there was need for compromise and consensus.
Moonilal said while the TTPBA had the right to seek a legal opinion, there would always be different legal opinions on any given matter. He said he wanted to know what would happen if the Attorney General had a different opinion from that obtained by the TTPBA. Tony Maharaj, a member of the TTPBA, said the matter would be taken higher.
“The Privy Council?” Moonilal inquired, adding that he was hopeful that the matter would not be taken down that road. Moonilal said no government would be happy with a stakeholder imposing a definition of public interest, and suggested that the TTPBA submit in writing to the Communications Minister, within 21 days, the options available to the Government for airing the programmes.
Mohammed told the Guardian after the meeting that he was happy with its outcome. “We have come to a good agreement as to the way forward,” he said, adding that he was confident there would be further dialogue and compromise. “So it is a good move and we are happy,” he said.
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