by Larry Smith
The Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority has published a proposed code of practice for broadcasters and advertisers (viewable here). It is intended to regulate the types of content that can be broadcast in the Bahamas on television and radio stations, teletext services, and cable networks.
The code seeks to prohibit or restrict certain types of programming, and to set rules that promote accuracy and fairness in news, current affairs and political broadcasting
I attended several industry working group meetings over the past several months at URCA to discuss the code. The working group reviewed similar regulations from other countries, including the Commonwealth Caribbean, to determine what issues should be addressed in the Bahamian code. Public consultation on the draft code is open until December 30.
What follows is an edited version of an article originally published in February 2010, which looked at some of the ramifications of the regulation of political broadcasting. The discussion was sparked by complaints about the restriction of party advertising during the Elizabeth bye-election campaign.
Whenever an election is in the air, Bahamians seem to take leave of their senses. And the current controversy over political broadcasting rules set by the new utilities regulator (URCA) is a telling example.
This is not to deny that we should pay a lot of attention to any attempt to regulate the media. in fact, this should be the subject of a full-scale public debate going forward - rather than just a closed-door conversation among media moguls. But before we get to the broader issues of how we regulate speech during an election, a word or two on the local tempest in a teacup is in order.