Jamaican radio/TV stations could soon be asked to pay licensing fee to regulator
Jamaican radio and television stations could soon be required to pay a licensing fee to the Broadcasting Commission to assist with offsetting its cost to regulate the industry — a cost now solely borne by cable operators. This is one of several recommendations in a Media Policy Report compiled by a Canadian research company drafted to assist the Commission to update and modernise Jamaica’s Electronic Media Policy. The Commission was, however, unable to say how much this fee is likely to be or the projected implementation date.
Dr Hopeton Dunn, chairman of the Broadcasting Commission, while denying that a recommendation has already been made to Government for broadcasters to pay five per cent of gross revenues as a tax on their operations, said all regulated entities should contribute to the cost of regulation. “The Media Policy report does not specify any level of contribution to be paid to broadcasters,” Mr Dunn told journalists at a press conference at the commission’s New Kingston offices.
“It simply points out that cable operators in Jamaica unfairly bear the full cost of regulation, and that all regulated entities including broadcasters should contribute to the cost of regulation as happens all over the world,” he said.
Mr Dunn pointed to a structural inequity which exists between regulated players across the industry, which he said has resulted in an uneven competitive environment. “The report, therefore, recommends that the licence fee regime extends to all licensees and that in doing so government and the regulator should consider the viability of all the players,” Mr Dunn said.
With 28 radio stations and three free-to-air television stations operating in Jamaica, Mr Dunn pointed out that none of these entities make any contribution to the considerable cost of their regulation. “This is despite the fact that a significant portion of resources by the regulator is expended on broadcasting issues such as protecting them against spectrum interference, conducting content standards investigations, monitoring copyright compliance, overseeing technical output and monitoring national geographical coverage levels,” he explained.
Additionally, Mr Dunn said it is accepted worldwide that in order to be independent, the broadcasting regulator must be able to function free from financial imbalance interference or pressure from political or economic forces. A vital element to ensuring its independence, he said, is a secure, diverse and consistent means of funding for the regulatory body.
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