Trinidad broadcasting association blasts government over ‘dictatorial' behaviour
IPI renews criticism of plan to compel private broadcasters to carry government content
By: Scott Griffen, Press Freedom Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean
VIENNA, Feb 6, 2013 - In a strongly worded press release issued yesterday, The Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) criticised the country’s communications ministry over the “dictatorial manner” in which the TTBPA said it had attempted to force private broadcasters to carry government content on a daily basis.
“The lack of collaborative effort by the Ministry of Communications is disappointing and, in our view, undemocratic and we are fearful that this is the modus operandi of the government,” the statement read in part.
The conflict dates back to Oct. 2012, when Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed announced a plan to compel all private radio and television stations to carry up to one hour of government programming per day. Although a 2005 concession agreement required of all broadcasters in Trinidad and Tobago contains a clause providing for official content, the government had never before taken advantage of the provision.
The TTPBA’s press release acknowledged the concession obligations, but called for deliberations that would address its members’ concerns about advertising and press freedom. The group expressed concern over specific programs (“MP’s Scorecard,” and “Minister Diaries”) it feared could be a “form of political advertising.”
“The International Press Institute (IPI) supports the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association in its efforts to ensure that the Communication Ministry’s plan is implemented with respect for the editorial and economic independence of the media,” said IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills.
“IPI reiterates its concern that Trinidadian media were not properly consulted either in the drafting of the concession agreement — whose provisions related to government content are troublingly expansive — or in the communication ministry’s proposal,” Mills added.