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URCA releases proposed code of practice to regulate media providers

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) yesterday released its proposals to regulate media providers in The Bahamas.

The regulator is hoping to get responses to its proposed Code of Practice for the Regulation of Content Services and Audiovisual Media Services before the end of the year.

The principal purpose of the draft code of practice is to regulate the types of content that can be broadcast in The Bahamas on television stations, radio stations, teletext services, and cable television networks providing local and overseas channels, said URCA in a statement.

“These standards cover a multitude of areas – which typically feature in broadcasting content codes around the world – such as the protection of children, harm and offense, taste and decency, accuracy and fairness, political broadcasts, advertising and sponsorship, and guaranteed access to certain kinds of content and services (e.g. relating to national emergencies and disasters),” said the regulator.

“In some cases, absolute prohibitions apply to the broadcasting of certain types of content.  In other cases, exceptions to the rules are allowed provided that the content is broadcast during times of the day when children would not be expected to be watching, or the programming has an educational, satiric, comedic or other purpose that justifies the exception to the rules.”

The regulator noted that in many cases, the broadcaster is expected to provide written and/or verbal advisories and warnings that the programming contains “material of a sexual, violent or controversial nature, as well as program classifications indicating the suitability of the program for children and other audiences.”

“In other cases, filtering technology must be provided to allow parents the option to decide what they and other members of their households might watch,” URCA said.

The proposed rules also regulate how broadcasters can air political advertising and cover political stories and events.

The draft rules also regulate time dedicated to advertising in programming and how to distinguish advertising from programming content.

The proposed code of practice also outlines a complaint process for those who feel broadcasters have violated any rules.

The draft code of practice can be found at URCA’s website

Responses can be submitted until 5 p.m. on December 30.

Those wishing to respond can do so by hand to URCA’s office at the UBS Annex Building on East Bay Street; by mail to P.O. Box N-4860, Nassau, Bahamas; by fax to (242) 393 0153; or by e-mail to [email protected]

URCA currently regulates broadcasters with its interim code of practice.

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