Communications Minister Donna Cox has disputed criticism over the alleged misuse of the Government’s telecommunications concession to broadcast its policies and decisions on private television and radio stations.
In a press release, issued yesterday afternoon, Cox challenged the criticism made by president of the T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) Kiran Maharaj after a lengthy interview with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was broadcast on Sunday night. Maharaj claimed that use of the concession was unconstitutional.
“We value the media and its role in shaping a society we can all be proud of. We also value our relationship with the media and will do nothing to undermine this fourth pillar of democracy,” Cox said.
Cox quoted extensively from the concession documents, which requires all free-to-air radio and television stations to make 14 hours per calendar week available to transmit public-interest Government material, free of charge.
“We are not unreasonable. For us, every request is the beginning of a negotiation. Often, stations inform us that they are unable to air Government programmes at the times we request, and so begins a discussion. We have always been able to reach some compromise,” Cox said, as she noted that one station only allowed for one hour a week despite the requirement of 14.
Responding to Maharaj’s claim that stations receive weekly requests from the Government, Cox noted that the last request before Sunday’s interview came in November, last year.
Cox also sought to defend the decision to have Guardian Media Lead Editor and Anchor Khamal Georges perform the interview with Rowley.
Cox noted that the interview was in keeping with industry practice as the questions were not furnished by the Office of the Prime Minister, although it requested the interview.
The interview, which lasted one-and- a half- hours, was broadcast on all requested station except CCN TV6, as it claimed that it had pre-existing commercial obligations.
Cox also said that she was willing to meet with the TTPBA and the Media Association of T&T (MATT) to clarify any further issues.
Reporter: Derek Achong