The Trinidad & Tobago Publishers & Broadcasters Association (TTPBA) wishes to reiterate that it has always had a concern about sections D30, D31 and D32 of its broadcast concession. It is a matter that has been an ongoing discussion with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad & Tobago (TATT).

The TTPBA has had opinions from Press Freedom organisations, in various parts of the world, who have spoken about the unconstitutionality of the clauses in its current wording and over the years recommendations have been made and submitted several times to parliamentarians in their roles as Ministers of Communications, as well as to TATT. It is an issue which the TTPBA continues to work on to find a resolution. We are happy that the Minister of Communications, Mrs. Donna Cox, sees the value of the media as a “the fourth pillar of democracy” as the media continuously seeks to serve the highest good, which is the public interest and the citizens of Trinidad & Tobago.

Of major concern to the TTPBA, especially in an election year, is the use of airtime by government. Over the past three general elections in Trinidad & Tobago (under different governments) there was a substantial increase in requests for airtime use. The definition of what constitutes “public interest” has always been a matter of contention and this is an aspect of the clauses with which the TTPBA has always been concerned. This is especially true of clause D31 which gives government carte blanche to define “public interest” which, according to some opinions, is an antithesis to press freedom and democracy.

Other Ministries make requests for airtime use based on clauses D30-D32, not only the Ministry of Communications. This explains why the Ministry is not completely aware of all the requests made of media houses. The TTPBA would like to recommend that all ministries make such requests via the Ministry of Communications as a centralised effort to streamline and effectively monitor government communication.

The TTPBA would like to go on record that neither it nor its president has ever inferred that a media house, in the most recent interview with the Prime Minister, was bullied by the Office of the Prime Minister and its use of the concession.

We welcome the opportunity to meet with Minister Cox at her earliest convenience, since there are several industry matters that we believe should be brought to her attention. The government and the TTPBA have a shared interest, which is, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

We hope that we have clarified public misperceptions and we reiterate our commitment to ensure the public’s right to know.