ICTA to set rules of local TV content

| 11/05/2015 | 0 Comments

(CNS Business): The Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) is changing the framework of  licence obligations for cable TV and redefining what “local content” means for broadcast carriers in the Cayman Islands. The television regulators told CNS Business they are also looking into creating a universal service fund to collect fees from cable companies to help pay for the production of public service broadcasting in the area.

ICTA Managing Director Alee Fa’amoe explained that the authority is in the early stages of developing guidelines and  trying to provide a greater degree of clarity on what future licensing requirements will be for Cayman television networks.

CNS Business

Alee Fa’amoe, ICTA Managing Director

“What we are looking at, in terms of public service broadcasting, is to make sure that no matter how you’re receiving your TV signal in Cayman, you have the option of getting local news, weather, sports, community events, government information and also providing a community access mechanism so that non-profit groups, such as churches or service clubs, have a degree of access to the air waves to get their messaging out,” Fa’amoe said.

He said right now the terms of what should be included in “local content” are very broad and ICTA’s plan is “to make sure that our customer base here in Cayman has access to content that is relevant to the local community.”

Fa’amoe explained, “What we’re suggesting is that, where the private sector is not able or is unwilling to deliver public service broadcasting, for example, we might use a universal service fund to help create and fill that gap.” He said that through the idea of a universal service fund, Cayman television networks could raise money from its licensees to make grants available for certain types of programming.

“We don’t anticipate getting involved in editorial panels to decide what is good and bad or who needs to be cut from the show. What we do anticipate creating is a framework that will enable the private sector, whether that’s someone running around with a HD camera or an iPad, who wants to film things and create unique content, that they will be able to do so and find a market for that, whether it’s local  or otherwise,” the managing director explained.

As of now, cable companies are required to show a certain amount of community programming as part as their licensing requirements. Under the new rules publicizing government TV alone would not be enough to count as a network’s “local content”.

“Now, we’re not saying a morning talk show would or would not qualify, but that’s something I think we need to discuss with a  wider group of folks and not just us, so we get input that is relevant. Again, this whole thing is about being relevant, so we need to get the thoughts and input from the local community as what they would like to see as part of the definition of local content,” Fa’amoe told CNS Business.

However, this is not the first time the ICTA has reached out to its licensees and public consumers for input. This same time last year, the television regulators conducted a consultation in hopes to receive feedback on the issue of local programming. Unfortunately, Fa’amoe said, “the responses were very few, in fact not even all of our licensees took the time to respond. So we couldn’t really use that as a basis upon to drive things forward.”

The managing director said this time around ICTA members are focusing on what approach they should take to engage a wider audience, whether through their website, electronic survey tools or hold a town meeting.

“The conversation we will be having over the next few weeks with licensees will be about any concerns they have and putting some more meat on the bones of the framework we’ve proposed. It might change dramatically from what we’ve proposed, but that’s the point; there needs to be input. I would say over the next 30 to 60 days we will engage with all of our licensees and we should look to some point over the summer to engage a broader audience, whether that’s the general public or some segment of the general public,” he explained.  ICTA plans to have some rules in place by later this year.

Moving forward with new regulations, Fa’amoe said, it is crucial that all telecommunication providers are on board and willing to take broadcasting in Cayman to the next level.

“We’re ecstatic that there are so many players in the cable tv market, but we’re not happy that they’re not getting out to all the customers that they want to get out to. So, our role is to help them to get access to those customers so that those customers then have the benefit of choice. So that means we need to work with whoever owns the light poles to make sure these cable tv companies get up on the light poles and get out there in a safe and fair manner,” he said.

CNS Business also asked ICTA officials to comment on the future of Logic’s Cayman 27 after rumours have circulated about the future and potential sale of the station.  Fa’amoe said in order for the sale of Cayman 27 to happen, a presentation would first have to be given to the ICTA board members. He said that, so far no future meeting have been set.

 

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Category: Entertainment, Featured, ICT, Local Business, Technology, Video

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