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Meeting between IBA and Broadcast Licensees : Monday 26th November 2012 at 11.00 AM at the seat of IBA, Port Louis.

1.0       Introduction

1.1       The meeting chaired by Mr Trilock Dwarka was focused on the Directives issued by IBA last week in the context of the forthcoming Village Council and Municipal Elections scheduled respectively on 2 and 9 December 2012.

1.1.1    Mr Dwarka stated that this meeting is being convened to throw some light on the legal parameters laid down by IBA during this electoral period. He pointed out that Section A. 5 of the new Directives does not completely suspend phone-in/call-in programmes on radio. Such programmes may be aired provided they do not include political or politically-related statements which could create some imbalance. The gist and spirit of the Section is to encourage a just, fair, equitable and honest treatment to all political parties and independent candidates. All political programs featuring candidates, party leaders and other personalities are maintained. The chairperson put several questions to the meeting:

1)         Assume 100 callers wish to intervene live in the phone-in programmes and only 10 of them are chosen. Under what criteria would this choice be made?
2)         To what extent have radio licensees implemented the Practice Direction on phone-in programs issued by IBA since August 2012?
3)         How would radio stations guarantee equity, fairness and broadcast of different views in programmes dealing with burning issues when one caller decides to talk on one hot topic?
4)         Under what principle has a radio station allowed a candidate standing for the Village Council Elections to intervene three times at the expense of the 3800 other candidates, including ladies? With another candidate giving a ‘consigne de vote’ and one party leader out of three allowed to canvass voters during the Rodrigues Regional Assembly elections?
5)         What measures are being taken to avoid unsubstantiated statements, statements not based on facts on radio?
6)         Are radio stations conscious that there have been allegations made that may harm social harmony in the society? What guarantees are there that such statements will not be broadcast?
7)        What measures have been taken to avoid ‘programme capture’ by serial callers who can be heard on all three radio stations when other listeners are not allowed to intervene? Is this not a gross injustice to the other members of the public?

1.1.2      The IBA Chairperson and the LegalAdviser, Mr Nawaz Dookhee cited examples of countries like India where hundreds of radio licensees have no right to broadcast news and current affairs. In France, the broadcast regulator, the Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovosuel (CSA) issued recommendations which suspend programs ‘d’intervention directe’, among which phone-in/call-in programmes at least 3 to 4 months prior to Presidential Elections. This is accepted and is not considered a breach of freedom of expression.  In the light of these observations, the Chairperson stated the IBA Directives do not at all constitute a threat to freedom of expression. The IBA’s main concern is to ensure equity, that callers do not interfere with the electoral process and is prepared to consider any proposals on how radio stations may endeavour to safeguard equity in phone-in programs of a political nature, as the Chairperson has already told some radio representatives since Saturday last.

2.0       Response by Radio Representatives
2.1       Nawaz Noorbux: The Editor-in-Chief of Radio Plus stated that:
1) He allows callers to intervene live on a first-come first-serve basis
2) He can’t determine whether the caller is a political agent
3) He will never accept that a caller gives a ‘mot d’ordre’ in favour of a political party
4) He activates systematically the Broadcast Delay system and has done so recently.
5) He is agreeable to the IBA Directives that Phone-in/Call-in programmes, if left unchecked, could unduly influence the elector’s decision
6) The 3 private radios undertake to send counter – proposals to IBA.
7)  The moderator can ensure balance and that the spirit of equity prevails in a programme
8) The Broadcast Delay equipment should be applied more vigorously.

 2.2      Krish  Kaunhye: The Director and Editor-in-Chief of Top FM affirmed that:

1) The issue of equity and balance is a subjective one, there might be more callers voicing their opinion in one way or the other on minor issues, and we get one last caller intervening creating more than just a balance or overturn the balance in the opposite direction. Examples of Yousouf and Dip were cited as clear examples of such situations.

2) Over the past 10 years TOP FM has been handling such programs during several elections and we know how to deal with it.

3)  TOP FM ran in the past phone-in programs e.g coze do mo pepe even on the day of the elections without any problem of compliance. The audience was cautioned and they abide by the instructions responsibly.

4) TOP FM agrees that the Broadcast Delay system should be used in a more vigorous way.

2.3       Nicholas Adelson: The Director of Radio One affirmed that:
1) Any undertaking should be contemplated following legal advice
2)  He understands that two of the three radio stations have been convened to this meeting mainly due to   repeated breaches made by especially one radio station
3) Radio One shared the views of Radio Plus that Phone-in/Call-in programmes should not be aired during electoral peak period.
4) Radio One is a responsible radio station and is highly observant of IBA regulations with moderators acting as they should to prevent any abuse.

N.B The point raised as to one caller being more effective than six or seven was disputed by the Chairperson of the IBA and said to be of such a nature as to make useless any time allocation for political parties during election time, which goes against universal principles. This was agreed.

3.0       Key Points
3.1       The three private radios have undertaken to send proposals to the IBA so that the Authority could be guaranteed that their programmes would be fair, objective, equitable and honest during the remaining days   before the two elections.
3.2       The IBA is ready to review the Directives if it is satisfied with the undertaking to be made by the radio licensees which should include the MBC, which also makes breaches.

4.0       Conclusion:

4.1       Those present expressed satisfaction at the positive climate that prevailed throughout the meeting. The Legal Adviser of the IBA stated he will make himself available so as to examine the proposals to be made by radio licensees which he will then pass on to the Committee.(Content Monitoring Committee).

4.0       The meeting ended at 12h30.


Mr S. Armoogum

Ag Secretary/Director of Broadcast Content.