FROM January 1, 2020, local television service providers will no longer be able to air FOX (News and Sports), ABC, CBS or NBC unless they obtain the legal rights to do so.
In a press release issued on Monday, the Telecommunications Authority (TATT) said the forbearance period for these networks, which began in 2015, has ended in Trinidad and Tobago. A forbearance period occurs when there is a mutual decision to delay the enforcement of particular rights.
The release said, "The authority exercised forbearance on the transmission of foreign free-to-air networks in order to allow the authority an opportunity to consider the many issues related to the intellectual property rights of the broadcast of these stations in TT."
The channels will be removed if the providers have not obtained the rights from the copyright owners of the stations.
TATT CEO Cynthia Reddock-Downes told Newsday the authority has been investigating the situation over the past four years. It was found that despite the networks being free-to-air networks, those rights were not extended to the Caribbean region.
She said, "Intellectual property is really a private right, so generally, the owners of the copyright are the ones to pursue action against illegal activity. What has happened in this instance is that we have been advised by the network providers that the content is not available."
She said the authority reviewed the viewership of the channels, locally, and said they are "very popular."
"We even explored getting them to extend the rights to the Caribbean, and we are still continuing with that. We have had one of the four saying at one point, they prepared some content for the Caribbean, but that has not happened yet.
"Until that is in fact the case, we cannot claim that we have the rights."