The Cayman Islands’ 17 music radio station licensees, and Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) officials gathered on Tuesday, 21 July, for the first-ever open meeting to discuss areas of concern in the industry. Held in advance the FM radio station license renewals later this year, the meeting’s objective was also to strengthen the operational foundation between the authority and operators.
Government, university and Christian stations, as well as others offering almost every genre of music were present at the Government Administration Building for the meeting. ICTA’s recently-appointed Managing Director Mr Alee Fa’amoe, who chaired the meeting, had met one-on-one with each licensee over the preceding month, during which he identified many shared concerns. The agenda ranged from musical content to technical specifications for licensees, and discussions focused on issues raised by ICTA staff as well as by radio operators.
Noting that the ICTA is introducing a “multi-stakeholder model” as part of its regulatory efforts, Mr Fa’amoe said he hopes to “regularise and standardise FM licenses, while establishing rules to govern the industry. These must be fair, reasonable, affordable, and deliver maximum benefits to the maximum number of beneficiaries.”
He further stated that his agency aims to “get out of regulating businesses, and instead regulate the industry. The goal is to help you succeed, and thereby stimulate growth, create jobs and contribute to the GDP.”
Explaining his timetable, Mr Fa’amoe said he hopes to have ground-rules established within 90 days. Thereafter, his 120-day targets extend to setting guidelines for the advertisement of tobacco, alcoholic products and healthcare services, as well as a review of the needs of FM radio broadcasting in the Sister Islands. The ICTA also seeks to establish a separate working group to address inspections of the 74 radio towers in the Cayman Islands.
Operator Kenny Rankine expressed a need for contingency plans to mitigate against tower failures, especially in hurricanes or other crises. Randy Merren said there is also a need to ensure the even dissemination of official communications during a crisis. The ICTA Director shared that, while the ICTA has a Crisis Management Plan, there is a need to refine some details to incorporate and to coordinate more effectively with licensees before, during, and after a crisis.
Other general areas identified for consideration were the regulation of airplay content, transmitter standards, and frequency alignment. “There is also a need to provide Cayman Brac and Little Cayman with a number of FM radio stations, but this requirement should not be burdensome on the licensees,” added Mr Fa’amoe.
Opportunities for education and employment were also covered. ICCI President David Marshall stated that he hopes to see established more “training pathways for youths with an interest in the sector”, and urged commitments from the industry to create access. Agreeing, Mr Fa’amoe added this needed to be done for related areas, with increased investment in television, engineering and telecommunications training.
Licensees present at the meeting expressed concern about the number of radio station licenses. “The playing field is getting quite crowded, I will admit,” said Mr Fa’amoe. While there are two additional radio license applications now pending, the existing operators agree that the marketplace is ultimately dictated by listener preferences. “The economics will decide who succeeds,” added Dan Charleston of dms Broadcasting.
Summarising the meeting, Mr Fa’amoe said, “The FM radio broadcasters appear willing and eager to work together for the benefit of their industry and the country at large. Based on the feedback, maintaining these open lines of communications seem to be an achievable, and important, outcome.” He added that the overall goal is a vibrant ICT industry that can continue to provide job opportunities and contribute to the Islands’ GDP.