The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) thinks CCN TV6 is guilty of a serious crime.
In my previous post, I blogged the full text of the media release issued by TATT on October 31, in which TATT suggests that the airing of a video clip on CCN TV6 allegedly depicting the rape of a 13-year-old girl may have constituted a breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and a breach of the Sexual Offences Act.
It is now clear that by the time the Authority had issued that release a legal letter was in fact also dispatched to CCN TV6 and a copy forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions in view of the potential breach of the Sexual Offences Act.
I think we may be on the brink of a watershed moment in the history of our local media.
Watershed, not only because there is now a real possibility that the State will take unprecedented legal action against a mainstream media house.
And not only because the clip in question highlights the difficulties inherent in walking the line between protecting children against sexual violence and exploiting child victims of sexual violence.
Nor only because of the groundswell of outrage expressed by groups such as WomenSpeak, Rape Crisis Centre, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago and the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association.
As important as those factors are, I see this as a watershed moment mainly because TATT is, indirectly, calling all media practitioners and media houses to consider more deliberately the need for principled self-regulation in ethical decision-making.
This sentence, more than any other in the release, captures the heart of the TATT’s message: “CCN TV6 was admonished that the desire to achieve high TV ratings should not be done at the expense of the rights of the individual and certainly not at the expense of the rights of the child.”
Although the action taken against CCN TV6 is legal, the breach identified by TATT is ethical. Or, to use TATT’s words, “the fact that moral and ethical values were seemingly not given sufficient consideration in the decision to broadcast the content.”
The TATT release specifically mentions that, in its letter to CCN TV6, “the Authority expressed the view that the action of CCN TV6 was further compounded when the Statement of Principles and Editorial Guidelines from One Caribbean Media’s (parent company of CCN TV6) appeared to have been breached.”
The company’s breach is, at least in part, against its own media ethics standards! The One Caribbean Media (OCM) website has a link to a downloadable copy of its ethical guidelines, which explicitly state:
“Children are the most vulnerable sector of our population. We accept extra responsibility for their welfare. Protection of their rights is a cornerstone of our commitment not to exploit them.
- Children should not be identified, either by name or face, as witnesses to a crime.
- …Extra editorial judgment should be exercised in the publications of details where a victim’s identity might be adduced.”
Worse, another page of the OCM website actually links to the Draft Broadcast Code on the TATT website, stating: “One Caribbean Media has made extensive comments on the various versions of the Draft Code to promote a co-regulatory approach and to ensure that freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution is respected.”
Clearly, if the Company is to demonstrate serious commitment to the editorial values that it proclaims, it must, as a matter of urgent priority, reconsider its relationship to the “Crime Watch” programme.
Very little room for vacillation now remains. An immediate, public and comprehensive apology by CCN TV6 now appears to be the only acceptable decision that its executive management can afford, if it is to salvage what public trust its media companies still command.