PM sees hike in radio interview cost at election time as extortionary behaviour

      PM sees hike in radio interview cost at  election time as extortionary behaviour

PM Silveria Jacobs in Parliament last Thursday.

PHILIPSBURG--The increase in fees for interviews on radio stations during election time is seen by Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs as “extortionary behaviour” and she wondered whether regulatory bodies such as Bureau Telecommunications and Post (BTP) can regulate this and allow for equal representation by all parties.

    Making it clear that it was her personal opinion, Jacobs made the remarks while making a point during a meeting of Parliament’s Central Committee on government’s electoral reform trajectory last week Thursday. She was commenting on the increase in charges by the various radio stations for political interviews during election season, while responding to a question from United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison.

    Jacobs said she believed that radio stations are public forums with community billboards and noted that one or two stations had made a time slot available, which was rotated giving all parties the opportunity to be heard free of charge.

    “I think if we are going to say that we want to give an even playing field, then it shouldn’t be that to get on the radio station it’s $500 an hour; that one is $300 an hour; that one is $200 [for] half an hour and suddenly the same time that cost X doesn’t cost X. So, to me that is a bit of extortionary behaviour if I may say so myself,” Jacobs told Members of Parliament (MPs).

    “I’ve been in the radio business. So, the price didn’t go up for the airtime, so why does it go up during the election time? I don’t know if the regulator bodies can mandate it… The French side does it so I don’t know if there is some legislation that can be passed that would cap - not necessary cap, but at least allow for equal representation by all parties for at least an hour a day or whatever is determined and if others want to buy ads outside of that - fine, but that people can hear the voices of all concerned,” she explained.

    Jacobs made it clear that this was her personal opinion. “It was not debated with [the] Legal Affairs [Department] or anyone, but this is something that I’ve been thinking about... I would just make the personal choice not to go there, but who can afford to - and yes exposure is everything - will do what they need to do. So, it’s something that I think we need to look at. I don’t know if I will have the support of Parliament on that,” she said.

    The prime minister said discussions were held on this subject, but she would need to have further discussion with BTP or with whomever it is appropriate.

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