The Commission administers the Broadcasting and Radio Re-Diffusion Act, 1995 and the Television and Sound Broadcasting Regulations, 1996, ensuring that they give structure and direction to the media the Commission oversees.
The Act and Regulations govern the Commission’s discharge of its mandate by defining the body’s administrative structure, role and authority.
One of the Commission’s main functions is to recommend to the Minister of Information which applicants should receive licences for radio, television and subscriber television (STV) services. It also recommends the terms and conditions under which those licences should be granted and renewed. Applicants for licences are expected to meet certain programming, technical, and financial standards and be able to provide a satisfactory level of service.
Once the Commission is convinced that an applicant can adequately staff and operate the service according to the law, a recommendation is made to the Minister of Information, who then decides whether a licence should be granted.
The Commission is required to see that the operations and programming of the licensees it regulates meet the standards set out in law.
The Regulations state that radio, television and STV services must provide satisfactory customer service, technical quality and meet standards of programming content.
Licensees, particularly STV operators, are expected to have proper complaints systems so that customers experiencing problems with the service can contact them at any time. The licensee is expected to deal with these promptly.
The Commission also monitors licensees to see whether they are meeting the required technical standards set out in the Regulations.
The Commission does not pre-screen any of the programming transmitted by licensees. Rather, its interest is in ensuring that licensees are aware of the legal standards that apply to content. Certain types of violent, false, misleading, or libellous material, as well as profane, obscene, racist, sexist, or indecent material are illegal.
Where breaches of the law occur, the Commission may direct the licensee to air an apology, or recommend to the Minister of Information that the licence be suspended or revoked. As a further penalty, the licensees who break the law may be prosecuted in a Resident Magistrate’s court.
While the Commission does not formulate media regulatory policy, it does contribute to the discussions out of which policy comes, through the submission of information to the policy makers, which is the Information Division of the Office of the Prime Minister. Among other things, the Commission is to advise the Minister of Information on the allocation of time to broadcasting programmes that are Jamaican in origin, performed by Jamaicans, or which are particularly relevant or significant to Jamaica.
The Commission has the mandate to carry out or commission research on all areas relating to the electronic media in Jamaica. Such information guides the Commission when proposing policy changes, and formulation of standards for licensees’ operations.