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Sunday 26 January 2020
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MATT looking into ‘odd’ OPM-arranged interview

Dr Sheila Rampersad
Dr Sheila Rampersad

MEDIA Association of TT (MATT) president Dr Sheila Rampersad has described as "odd and strange" an interview between the Prime Minister and CNC3 news anchor Khamal Georges.

The interview was arranged by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

The taped interview was broadcast on CNC3 and TTT on Sunday evening, but TV6 declined to air it, citing commercial obligations.

Opposition members have slammed the interview, with one MP calling it a work of fiction.

Rampersad said MATT was looking into the details of the arrangement.

"That is key to understanding what happened here," she said. "It does appear on the face of it to be an odd and strange arrangement where a journalist that is a full-time employee of a media house is doing something for OPM, to be broadcast to all media.

"We are still trying to ascertain the details of the arrangements between OPM, the media house and the journalist.

"In that effort there is role for the TTPBA (TT Publishers and Broadcasters Association), and this is the organisation we see as best placed to bring clarity to the public on what arrangement was made between OPM and GML (Guardian Media Ltd, parent company of CNC3)."

TTPBA president Kiran Maharaj told Newsday she was not aware of the arrangements for the interview.

But she said, "Lots of times in the past you have ministers interviewed by journalists. I cannot dictate and cannot come into a newsroom and say what to do.

"Every company has their policies and procedures. That is not my concern. My concern is the broader picture.”

She said the TTPBA's concern is from an industry standpoint, over the use of the telecommunications concession by governments, specifically sections D31 and D32.

D31 says, "The Government may reasonably declare any matter or event to be of public interest and require the concessionaire to broadcast such matter or event, but the Government shall, in deciding the actual time of transmission and length of broadcast, consult with the concessionaire with a view to causing the least possible disruption to the normal commercial operations of the concessionaire."

D32 says the "transmission time allocated to the Government may be varied on the giving of 24 hours notice to the concessionaire, except that, in the case of an emergency, such notice period shall be waived."

Maharaj said: "That is our industry concern.

"This is not the first government to use it and not the first time. Almost every week a media house gets a letter from Government expressing the wish to utilise the air time. This was a serious issue even with the last government, and a problem with the previous PNM administration.

"It is constant and ongoing and it is unconstitutional."

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