Experts have called on the media commission to scrap a proposed draft licensing regulation and start anew. The recommendations came during a workshop conducted by the Community Media Network in cooperation with the Media commission Wednesday and with funding from the European Union.
The biggest complaint against the new draft was the high fees it recommends and the first ever fee structure on internet-based broadcasting. Experts called the idea of charging internet broadcasting “a step backwards in terms of the freedom of electronic space.”
Fares Sayegh the director Roya TV wondered out loud in the workshop entitled “Towards a fair broadcasting in the service of community and nation” whether the draft regulation is another scheme to collect money or if it intends to truly regulate broadcasting. ” This large collection scheme in the draft means that this will be a major financial burden to investment in this sector.”
Sayegh called for explaining the clauses regarding broadcasting via internet and asked that the fees for land-based transmission be reviewed. He also complained about the exceptions that radio and tv stations owned by the government and broadcast advertising should be exempted because this creates an unfair competitive landscape.
Mohammad Qtaishat the director of the Media Commission, insisted that the document that was discussed is a draft that is aimed at producing regulations that are beneficial to the sector expressing his support in Jordanian media. He called on the media representatives to send their suggestions for how best to accomplish international standards regarding ownership of media in a way that can serve the current regulatory framework. Qtaishat said that the commission doesn’t interfere in the editorial of the content supports the sustainability of the broadcast media but wants to ensure that hate speech is not broadcast on the airwaves.
The European Union chargé de affairs, Egidijus Navikas, said that the “EU looks at media in Jordan both as a means of freedom of expression and as a platform for development. We look forward to a facilitation of the licensing and work of community radios, hoping they will reach out to all areas in the Kingdom and to marginalized groups, youth and women.”
Daoud Kuttab the director general of the Community Media Network said that the broadcast spectrum is a valuable national treasure. “Since the spectrum is a national treasure and since analogue radio spectrum is limited, there has to be a fair system to distribute the frequencies so that all can benefit from it.” Kuttab said that Jordan has used the licensing of stations strictly as a financial investment without looking for other benefits. “We use 10% of this national treasure while 90% of the airwaves goes to waste. If we go outside the capital we will notice that very few local stations are available while most of the incoming airwaves are full of stations from Palestine, Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia and even Lebanon.”
Kuttab also called for fairness towards community media. He said that the unfair licensing scheme has allowed public and semipublic media can advertise without limits even though it survives on tax payer revenue. “Is it fair that Jordan TV which collects millions of JDs yearly from our monthly electric bills, while private media get no tax breaks.”
The workshop also dealt with the role of broadcast in development and women’s empowerment, international standards and the status of broadcasting in Jordan. Former minister Asma Khader, expert Sawsan Zaideh and Radio al Balad director Etaf Roudan talked about the role of broadcast media to provide equal opportunities to all. “The ownership issues should be fair to all so that they can represent themselves without any side monopolizing the airwaves,” said Etaf Roudan.
Media expert, Sawsan Zaideh said that the government dominates in the media. “There is an unjustifiable insistence to control the media, and the government uses different methods to do that.” Zaideh gave an example to this phenomenon the fact that since 2002 the government has supported commercial media while limiting the ability of community-based organisations to own broadcast media. She noted that the armed forces own three radio stations that mostly broadcast music and run paid commercial advertising.
Nidal Mansour the director of the Center for the Defense of Journalists called on the media commission to refrain from interfering with the content of the broadcast media and to limit its work on regulating it leaving the judicial branch as the arbitrator in any conflict that has to do with hate speech. Mansour criticized the attempts to include broadcasting via internet with the broadcasting regulation saying the government wants to go after even anew media outlet that will appear in the future.