Politicians, children, women among groups broadcast draft codes seeking to protect
Through its recently released draft codes governing the broadcasting industry, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) is seeking to ensure that broadcasters are fair to politicians, and offer protections to those who are defamed in the media.
The proposals come as the election season approaches.
The principal purpose of the code 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, according to URCA.
The Code of Practice for the Regulation of Content Services and Audiovisual Media Services, released on November 9, also prohibits the broadcast of material that has explicit violent sexual conduct, and material that promotes violence against women or any other group.
The draft code also prohibits the broadcasting of material unsuitable for children during certain times. URCA’s Senior Case Advisor Vincent Wallace Whitfield told The Guardian yesterday that this section is particularly important.
“It deals with protection of children because they are very vulnerable members of society,” he said.
The draft stipulates that material that is unsuitable for children can only be broadcast between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.
“Programs which portray children in a sexual fashion, including the sexualization of children through dress and behavior, are not acceptable, except where justified in the context of a dramatic or factual program dealing with the specific issue of sexuality, in which case the portrayal must be as limited as possible within the context of the particular program and must in any event be sexually non-explicit,” according to the draft code.
Section six of the code seeks to regulate how broadcasters can air political advertising and cover political stories and events.
One of the proposals requires licensees to disclose to the public the name and political affiliation of any paid political broadcast, and prohibits the broadcast of any political material on polling day.
The code also seeks to mandate fair reporting during the election period, which is identified to be after Parliament is dissolved or the writ of election is issued.
“If, during an election period any criticism is levelled against a candidate or political party in a particular program of any licensee, the licensee concerned must afford such candidate or party a reasonable opportunity to respond to the criticism either immediately in the same program or soon after at a corresponding time,” said the code.
Section four of the code deals with ‘harm and offense’ and addresses various areas in which broadcast content has the potential to harm the public. As such the draft code of practice identifies content which is reasonably likely to encourage or incite the commission of a crime; explain criminal techniques that might invite imitation, or prejudice the success of attempts to deal with, detect or prevent crime as unsuitable for broadcast. This section also prohibits a licensee from broadcasting material with scenes that feature child pornography, incest and rape.
Unduly bloody or horrific depictions are also considered unsuitable for television programs.
Part five of the draft deals with the protection of young persons, and is intended to ensure that licensees adopt responsible policies through scheduling, advisories and program classifications, so as to limit the exposure of children to potentially harmful or unsuitable broadcast material.
The draft rules also regulate the time dedicated to advertising in programming, and how to distinguish advertising from programming content.
The 95-page draft code of practice can be found at URCA’s website www.urcabahamas.bs.