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Minister Fletcher Advocates the Need for Broadcast Content Regulation


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Contact: Jacques Compton



12 April 2012 – Issues affecting National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs), local broadcasters, and telecommunication organisations came under the microscope during a two day consultation on the draft of a new Electronic Communications Bill.


Minister for Public Service, Information and Broadcasting, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, Senator The Honourable Dr. James Flectcher participated in the deliberations.


According to Dr. Flectcher, the Telecommunications sector in the region counts for at least ten percent of its Gross Domestic Product, a fact that deserves critical consideration in the drafting of the bill in question.


“The basic aim of the present consultation is to assist ECTEL and the NTRC’s in resolving some fundamental questions, of particular importance to me is the issue of broadcasting because I do hold the dual hat of Minister responsible for Telecommunications and Minister responsible for broadcasting.


As with the existing telecommunications act, the draft Electronic Communications Bill maintains a strict separation between the regulation of broadcasting and the regulation of telecommunications. Although the NTRC’s are empowered to regulate the technical aspects of broadcasting, the act forbids the NTRC’s from regulating any content of broadcasters. In practical terms this blanket injunction against content regulation also means that the commissions are not in a position to establish rules on local content requirements example, what are the minimum requirements for local programming on television or radio stations,” Minister Fletcher said.


The consultation was aimed at examining issues that would affect local broadcasters and Telecommunications organisations upon the passing of the bill, giving special consideration to setting the aforementioned standards.


Dr. Fletcher noted that, “curiously the convergence of various technologies is giving rise to a blending of traditionally separate activities, broadcasting is now enabled via means of several different kinds of networks so that the traditional barriers between pure telecommunication networks and broadcasting are disappearing or have actually disappeared . An issue therefore is whether some consideration should be given to permit the NTRC’s the authority to oversee and manage licenses issued to broadcasters and to also assist in the process of standards development for the broadcasting industry. Of course the regulation of content by any state authority like an NTRC would need to be limited for legal reasons to adopting only those measures that are necessary and proportional to protect the interest of the public and of the constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression that is enshrined in the constitutions of our ECTEL member states.”


Also in attendance to examine the draft Electronic Communications Bill were board members of   The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL).

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