While parents are responsible for monitoring what their children see and hear, the electronic media industry also plays a very important role in this regard. Players in this industry have the ability to shoot potentially harmful media content into private homes where impressionable minds may get caught in the cross fire. It is therefore important to be aware of the regulations that seek to limit the extent to which children are exposed to inappropriate media content.
The electronic media industry is for the most part regulated by the Broadcasting and Radio-Re-diffusion Act (“Broadcasting Act”), the Television and Sound Broadcasting Regulation (“Broadcasting Regulations”) and the Children’s Code for Programming (“Children’s Code”). Exhibitors of film are also regulated by the Cinematograph Act.
The Broadcasting Act provides for the licensing of commercial and non-commercial broadcasters and establishes the Broadcasting Commission (“Commission”) as the relevant regulatory body. The Commission has the duty of monitoring and regulating licensees and has the power to issue directives.
One of the ways in which the Broadcasting Regulations limit the exposure of potentially harmful media content to children is by regulating adult programmes. The Broadcasting Regulations require subscriber television service licensees to ensure that adult programming is transmitted in an encrypted format and only between the hours of 11:00pm and 4:00am. Under the Broadcasting Regulations, adult programmes are defined as programmes which depict or display sexual organs or conduct in an explicit and offensive manner.
The Children’s Code represents a more focussed and comprehensive effort to shield children from potentially damaging media content. Licensed media are required to rate, schedule and issue advisories in respect of problematic material in a programme or on a channel. For example, subscriber television service providers must utilize the following rating scheme for all programming channels: G (General), PG (Parental Guidance); A (Adult) and X (Encrypted). They must also ensure that advisories are presented for all of their programming channels that are rated PG, A or X.
Jamaican law also regulates the public exhibition of films. All exhibitors of films, pictures or other optical effects are required under the Cinematograph Act to receive authorization from the Cinematograph Authority prior to public exhibition. The Cinematograph Authority will assign a local rating to films and ensure suitability for exhibition to target audiences. The following rating scheme is applied by the Cinematograph Authority in carrying out its duties: U (Universal – appropriate for all ages); PG-13 (Parental Guidance – Children 12 years and under must be accompanied by parent/guardian); T-16 (no one under the age of 14 years will be admitted and children ages 14 and 15 must be accompanied by an adult); and Adult 18 (no one under the age of 18 years will be admitted).