February 18, 2009
GOVERNMENT MOVES TO IMPLEMENT ACTION PLAN TO CLEAN UP MEDIA AND PUBLIC SPACES
Prime Minister Bruce Golding has called for a set of recommendations on the action and the direction to be taken to clean up the music that is broadcast or projected in public spaces and through the electronic media.
Minister of Culture Olivia 'Babsy' Grange and Education Minister Andrew Holness have been asked to collaborate and prepare for cabinet review the recommendations coming out of a meeting last Friday with industry stakeholders. Minister Grange said that the Minister of Transport Mike Henry will also join the collaboration because of the implication for public transportation. The playing of loud music on buses and taxis which encourages lewd behaviour of uniform-clad students has long been a sore point for government officials.
Minister Grange said the Ministry of Culture will have further industry consultation to guide legislative action. The Prime Minister said during the meeting that there was no shortage of laws governing the broadcast and publication regulations for the music industry.
"Part of our problem is that there is no shortage of laws. Some of them may need to be updated. Part of our problem is the issue of enforcement. I am prepared to go all the way in enforcing these laws. If it's the minibus operator or the radio stations who must lose their licenses, I am prepared to go all the way to enforce the laws," Mr. Golding said.
The Prime Minister chaired a meeting at Jamaica House last week Friday where advocates of the ban and industry insiders met to discuss the recommendations. Dancehall artistes Renegade and Spice were in attendance.
"The reggae artistes all seem to be advocating the ban but I reminded them that once this is done, it will set a dangerous precedence and the government then can call for weed tunes to be banned, as well as songs hitting out against government corruption, or other social and political commentary could also be banned. When I made this point, there was only silence, they had nothing to say," Renegade of the award-winning duo RDX said.
Some recommendations were made to clamp down on producers who
produce obscene music, and to clean up the content in 'public spaces' such as stage shows and dances which take place in open air venues. Some legal minds believe that some of the recommendations, especially those that restrict the production of certain kinds of music, could impinge on the civil liberties of Jamaican citizens and border on fascism.
"It runs contrary to the principles of democracy and individualism, and it is a very slippery slope once we allow certain things to be passed into law," one legal expert said.
DIVIDE BETWEEN REGGAE AND DANCEHALL ARTISTES
There seems to be a clear divide between dominant younger dancehall artistes and older more conservative reggae artistes who have long been sidelined by the dynamics of the marketplace which encourage radio personalities to play edgier music that can attract listeners in the 18 to 24, which is a lucrative demographic for advertisers. The reggae artistes believe this move will significantly level the playing field.
"I was surprised that the reggae artistes did not even attempt to listen to the viewpoint of the dancehall artistes who came to the meeting. Many of them walked out and went outside to eat danish and patties when they heard any opinion which challenged their viewpoint. It was most disgraceful," one source said.
The Broadcasting Commission has been on a serious campaign in the last few weeks to ramp up its monitoring of the island's airwaves at the behest of groups in civil society who are concerned about the moral degradation of the society and the highly sexualised behaviour of young kids.
Deejay Vybz Kartel was invited to the meeting but was unable to attend because he had a previous overseas engagement that he could not miss. The deejay
"We have received over 500 emails of support from members of the public who are supporting a petition against the ban implemented by the Broadcasting Commission. The action of the commission is unreasonable, disproportionate and totally over the top. They have gone too far, this ban, as they have it now, is too broad, and has far reaching implications for dancehall music," Kartel reasoned.
LEGAL ACTION IN ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
The deejay has promised to take legal action against the Broadcasting Commission for its attempt to limit his freedom of speech. The deejay intends to instruct his lawyer to challenge the Commission's decision and plans to submit a petition against the ban. The Broadcasting Commissions public relations department said that "appeal from Commission decisions lie in the administrative court".
An administrative court is a court specializing in administrative issues, particularly disputes concerning the exercise of public power. Their role is to ascertain that official acts are consistent with the law.
In the meantime, the debate rages on.
Last week Saturday, supporters of the Broadcasting Commission came out in their numbers. The marchers were a loose coalition of advocacy and human rights groups such as Hear the Children's Cry, Concerned Jamaicans, Choose Life, Hands Across Jamaica, Xtreme Impact. The marchers converged at Ardenne High School off Hope Road in St Andrew, and then trekked down Hope Road, on to Waterloo Road, on to Southdale Avenue, then on to Constant Spring Road. The group then stopped for a while to speak and display their placards at Mandela Park in Half-Way Tree before heading back to Ardenne High School. Along the way, they were met with support from everyday Jamaicans concerned about the lewdness and slackness that too often dominated airwaves and public spaces.
The Broadcasting Commission has also promised to clamp down on gyrating at carnival activities as well as dancehall events which feature graphic depictions of sex, or outercouse.
"There is no acceptance of the television sets being plastered with people engaged in gyration and simulation of sex," executive director Cordel Green told the press last week. "The message we are sending out is that content that is not fit for the airwaves ought not to be placed there, whether it is carnival or a dance."
The Broadcasting Commission maintains that once the language in the song is sexually explicit it should not be played on air as it would breach the Regulations. The definition used by the Commission of the words “obscene” and “profane” is the ordinary meaning of the words as set out in a dictionary:
a. Obscene: Offensively indecent; highly offensive; tending to deprave or corrupt
b. Profane: irreverent; blasphemous; obscene; violate; pollute