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TTPBA seeks legal advice
The T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) has raised concerns about Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed “dictating” broadcast schedules to media houses as well as concern about some of the programmes the Government wants aired. The association announced it would therefore be seeking a legal opinion on what is considered “public interest” broadcasting.
In a release yesterday, the TTPBA expressed concern about the content of some programmes such as MP’s Scorecard, and Minister Diaries, saying it felt these programmes could be a form of political advertising.
“It is not that we do not want to address issues that affect the lives of our citizens, our audiences,” it said, “but MP’s Scorecard does not in our opinion reflect public interest. Our concession states that we are to broadcast ‘material ...as a matter of public interest.’ It does not state we are required to broadcast government programming.”
The TTPBA referred to the Ministry of Transport’s campaign for road safety awareness, saying it agreed to assist in sensitising the public and increasing awareness because it believed this was in the public interest.
“TTPBA’s willingness to collaborate on issues that affect our industry is evident,” it said, “based on our participation and collaboration on issues such as the Draft Broadcast Code, Protecting the Rights of Children in the Media, and on Media Ownership. These indicate our belief that we should work together in the interest of our citizens. “We will forward the legal opinion to TATT (Telecommunications Authority of T&T) for discussion.”
Acknowledging that broadcasters had signed an agreement to air government programming, the TTPBA said the organisation would continue to air the types of programmes that Government Information Services Ltd (GISL) had submitted previously. These programmes include material such as documentaries on T&T history and travelogue-type material about places of interest in T&T.
“We also want to point out that GISL usually sends these a few days ahead of scheduled airtime so that our programmers have an opportunity to view and listen to the material,” said the release. Another concern for the association was what it described as the high-handed approached taken by Mohammed, whose ministry on January 16 published a list of stations and programme times in a daily newspaper without consultation.
The TTPBA complained, “The manner in which this was done would give any unsuspecting member of the public the impression that there has been agreement between us and the ministry on the programmes and the schedule, when in fact, we had written to the minister expressing our concern with the manner in which the times were dictated to broadcasters, and also indicated that the schedule would not work for us in the current form.
“The advertisement was also carried using members’ logos without anyone ever seeking permission from TTPBA members. This is another serious matter that is in contravention of our advertising standards.” TTPBA described what it called the lack of collaborative effort by the Ministry of Communications as “disappointing” and “undemocratic” and said it was fearful that this was the modus operandi of the Government, as it had been told that the Ministry of Communications acted as the spokesman for the Government.
Several calls to Mohammed’s phone went unanswered. He did not respond to voice messages.
In September last year, Mohammed announced that Government wanted to ensure there was one hour of airtime on television and radio networks to feature programming produced by the Communication Ministry. Subsequent to this, Mohammed met with the TTPBA, after which he sent letters to television broadcasters listing times for programmes to be aired.
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