Radio rules to focus on industry not businesses

| 28/07/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS Business): Despite having an overcrowded marketplace, with some 17 radio licences issued by the government regulator, the new Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) boss has revealed that there has never been an industry meeting with the authority. Pulling the owners of the stations together last week to review what’s happening in the sector, Alee Fa’amoe said it is now his goal for the ICTA to regulate the industry, not individual businesses.

He pointed out that there are common concerns, and with two more pending licences, the number of stations was one of them. Fa’amoe said he would also be examining the regulation of content and the rules regarding advertising.

“The playing field is getting quite crowded,” said Fa’amoe but the marketplace is ultimately dictated by listener preferences, the owners and regulated noted, and the key thing that the ICTA needs to do is focus on creating standards and a level playing field for the entire industry.

At the first ever meeting of its kind at the government building last week, Fa’amoe said consensus was reached on a range of issues between the radio station licensees and the ICTA. “We quickly established a solid foundation, considering that the industry never came together previously to discuss issues of common interest and of national importance.”

This general meeting was in also in advance of the FM radio station licence renewals later this year, and the objective was to strengthen the operational foundation between the authority and operators and to assess any areas of concern, officials stated in a release about the meeting.

Fa’amoe had met one-on-one with each licensee over the preceding month, during which he identified many shared concerns.

Government, university, Christian and commercial music stations were at the meeting, which covered technical specifications for licensees, and discussions focused on issues raised by ICTA staff as well as by radio operators.

Fa’amoe explained that he hopes to regularize and standardize licences and he will be establishing rules to govern the industry.

“These must be fair, reasonable, affordable, and deliver maximum benefits to the maximum number of beneficiaries,” he said. Talking about the need to “get out of regulating businesses, and instead regulate the industry,” he said government had to help the licensees succeed.

Once the ground rules have been established, the ICTA director said guidelines for the advertisement of tobacco, alcoholic products and healthcare services will be addressed, as well as a review of the needs of FM radio broadcasting in the Sister Islands. The ICTA also seeks to establish a separate working group to address inspections of the 74 radio towers in the Cayman Islands.

Operator Kenny Rankine from Spin and Vibe expressed a need for contingency plans to mitigate against tower failures, especially in hurricanes or other crises, while Randy Merren, the owner of Hurley’s Entertainment said there was a need to ensure the even dissemination of official communications during a crisis. The ICTA has a crisis management plan but Fa’amoe said it needed refining to coordinate more effectively with licensees before, during, and after a crisis.

Other general areas identified for consideration were the regulation of airplay content, transmitter standards, and frequency alignment.

“There is also a need to provide Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with a number of FM radio stations, but this requirement should not be burdensome on the licensees,” added Fa’amoe.

ICCI President David Marshall said the sector needed more training pathways for young people, which Fa’amoe backed, adding that it needed to be extended to television, engineering and telecommunications.

“The FM radio broadcasters appear willing and eager to work together for the benefit of their industry and the country at large. Based on the feedback, maintaining these open lines of communications seems to be an achievable, and important, outcome,” he said, adding that the goal was a vibrant ICT industry providing job opportunities and contributing to Cayman’s GDP.

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Category: ICT, Local Business, Technology

Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice article. However, please note that Dr. David Marshall is the president of ‘ICCI’ not UCCI.

    CNS: Noted and changed.

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