On January 26, 2014 the 56th Grammy Awards were held at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, California. In Jamaica it was aired on the television (TV) station Television Jamaica (TVJ). Throughout the night there were interruptions in audio and video presumably due to technical difficulties on TVJ’s part. There was a particularly long disruption of video during the pro-equality performance led by the rapper Macklemore. This may lead one to ask, was that specific interruption deliberate? If it was does TVJ have a right to block a part of a broadcast?
When asked whether a TV station has the right to block a section of a broadcast Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at King’s College London replied ‘it depends on whether the TV station is a private enterprise or a public entity’. He purported that if it is a private enterprise the TV station has the right to air (or not air) whatever it desires.
However, it is somewhat different if the TV station is a public entity. If the TV station is a public entity, according to Professor Wintemute, it has a responsibility to be impartial. He said the entire programme should be televised (unless it violates any broadcasting laws) thus allowing persons to view and form their own opinions about anything showed. TVJ is a private enterprise therefore based on Professor Wintemute’s assertions TVJ had a right to block a segment of the Grammy performance, if that is the case.
The Jamaican case Maurice Tomlinson v TVJ, CVM and PBCJ is very relevant to this discussion. The case entailed a lawsuit brought by attorney-at-law and gay rights activist Maurice Tomlinson against three Jamaican TV Stations (TVJ, CVM, and PBCJ) that refused to televise an advertisement promoting tolerance towards homosexuals.
The courts said there is the matter of editorial control which gives the defendants, the TV stations, the right to decide how they will handle the issues of public concern. According to the judges, it is necessary for each of the defendants, TVJ, CVM and PBCJ, to have the right to determine what it broadcast, the time at which any broadcast is made and the manner in which it is executed. They also purported that each defendant must have the right to decide on its programming having due regard to its audience and its objectives. Ultimately Mr. Tomlinson’s case was thrown out.
Given what was said by Professor Wintemute as well as the affirmations and outcome of the Tomlinson case it can be concluded that TVJ has every right to not air a part of a broadcast. In the end, however, it is still not clear whether the interruption during the Macklemore Grammy performance was intentional.
© Christopher Goldson 2014