by the T&T Publishers and Broadcasters Association on
the Draft National Broadcasting Code
TTPBAs formal position on the Draft National Broadcasting
Code released by the Telecommunications Authority is that
the code is unacceptable as it infringes on every citizens
right to freedom of thought, expression and freedom of the
press. These are rights that are protected by the Constitution
The code has been presented to the public as something good,
something that protects the citizens of T&T.
Via the proposed broadcast code the public is being offered
an exchange. Not a fair exchange mind you, but that is not
immediately obvious and it is easy to be seduced into giving
up your right to free speech and expression in exchange
for a promise that you will be protected from offence and
ridicule by the radio and television talk show hosts and
the public that exchange opinion and insults on radio and
The architects of the code started out with one objective,
the protection of the public. But each person needs to ask
(1) From what am I being protected?
(2) At what cost would this protection come?
The public is being told that they will be protected from
violence, sexual content, from being insulted, or offended
with regard to religion, race, national background and other
characteristics. However, this protection comes at a cost.
It means that as a citizen of T&T, your right to a different
view, one that someone else may not agree with, and your
right to express that view, to express yourself, is taken
The question we need to ask ourselves is: are we prepared
to have that right to freedom of thought and expression
When that is taken away, what you are left with is propaganda
because differing views will not be allowed, controversial
discussion will not be allowed because you are sure to offend
someone, so only one view will be allowed. That is what
is called propagandaone view only is relayed to the
What is wrong, you might ask, with having a civil society
where all men and women have good taste, fine manners and
respect for each other? Surely such a society would allow
for a better quality of life for all.
This promise of better things is what makes the code so
seductive but the public needs to understand that what the
code suggests it can deliver, it cannot, and should not,
in a democratic society that holds dear the right to free
speech and a free press.
There is a constitutional right to free speech and a free
press. There is no right, constitutionally or otherwise,
that can be interpreted as a right not to be offended.
America, the first country to have a written constitution
that guarantees free speech and a free press, has looked
at this matter we are discussing. And we would do well to
remember that America is the birthplace of commercial radio
and television and until very recently, the only country
with true commercial radio and television.
This is what the American telecommunications authority,
the FCC, has to say on this matter:
there is to be genuine free speech, people must be free
to say things that the majority may abhor, not only things
that the majority find tolerable or congenial.
The Telecommunications Authority is of the view that we
are going down the road to Rwanda and the cause of this
are the talk shows.
There is nothing to suggest that any talk show host has
the power to incite racial violence and if he or she did,
we would like to remind the public that there is redress
through the law and any code that is implemented should
acknowledge that such laws exist, can be enforced and laws
take precedence over any code.
The broadcast media are of the view that they are being
held responsible for the condition of society and if the
code is passed into legislation the evils of the society
can be brought under control. Nothing is less true.
The media do not make the society. The media can only reflect
the society or that part of the society that it serves.
If you find the media ugly then it is probably because the
society it reflects is ugly.
The code infringes on freedom of the press. The media are
one of the avenues through which the public is informed
and able to form an opinion. The media provide knowledge
and information, some of which, as a citizen, you will agree
with and some of which you will not.
However, you form your opinion and through the media that
opinion can be expressed. By accepting the code you lose
The code seeks to dictate what the media can and cannot
broadcast in all areas of their programming, including news
and by doing so it infringes on the publics right
to be informed.
Each persons character is a combination of many things,
one of them being the knowledge he or she has amassed. Through
the media you have access to knowledge and information that
can make you a stronger citizen and a more active participant
in the growth of your country. That is the role of the media.
Take away freedom of press and you take away your access
Our constitution was framed on the premise that we are a
society that has a proper respect for the rights and
freedoms of the individual. The public should not
be deceived into thinking that this code is good. What infringes
on your right of thought and expression and your right to
a free press cannot be good.
We are of the opinion that the philosophy of protection
that underpins the code is faulty and, as a result, most
of the code is defective and needs to be redrafted, keeping
in mind that no code can protect us from bad manners, poor
taste, improper grammar and talk-show participants who are
sometimes obnoxious. Poor taste can never be illegal.