Rudies don’t fear…

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My unedited Gleaner column of May 17, 2017

The case of Latoya Nugent, her arrest and trial on three counts of ‘using a computer for malicious communication’ under the Cybercrimes Act came to a head on May 17, 2017. After pleading ‘not guilty’ to the three charges brought against her by the Thompson brothers, the apparently trumped up case against her was finally dismissed.

Essentially Paula Llewellyn, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who intervened in the case, admitted that Ms Nugent could not be found guilty because her actions had not been criminally liable.  The DPP acknowledged that the postings allegedly made by Nugent were offensive and perhaps intentional but they didn’t come anywhere near meeting the ‘high threshold’ of evidence required by Section 9 of the Cybercrimes Act.

“In other words, it was offensive, but it was not at the level to make it obscene, or threatening, or menacing,” Paula Llewellyn told The Gleaner outside court.

This is interesting in light of the fact that Nugent had not only named alleged sexual predators on social media, she had then responded to their lawyer with an ‘expletive-filled’ letter. Many senior journalists had already pronounced Nugent guilty and seemed to approve of her arrest by the police but surely they must re-assess their understanding of what constitutes cybercrime now? Also what constitutes obscenity?

What Latoya may have been guilty of was offending certain deeply held notions of propriety in Jamaica where cursing is forbidden, no one should be ‘out of order’, especially women, the young should yield to the old, and everyone is referred to as a ‘lady’ or a ‘gentleman’, even crooks and murderers. Advocating on behalf of children and women who have been systematically violated and abused Nugent was in no mood to mince her words or be silenced and for this she was crucified. ‘She had it coming’ thought most of her critics when she was arrested but now they’re confronted with the fact that ‘she had it coming’ doesn’t constitute a criminal charge.

What civil society must ask in the wake of the DPP’s statements about the lack of evidence against Ms. Nugent is what made the Police act in the manner they did? Six heavily armed policemen invaded her home looking for her, then when they couldn’t find her, invaded Mary Seacole Hall, a dormitory on the University of the West Indies campus, where they intimidated her colleague, Student Services Manager, Nadeen Spence. Spence described the terror of those moments and the complete lack of support from civil society going on to say “The media wants to put us in our place and have us speak in proper hushed tones.” Is this the rightful role of the media?

As we all know, Ms Nugent was subsequently arrested and hauled off to a lockup where she was detained overnight. The manner of her arrest, with the Police brandishing high powered weapons suggested they were apprehending a kingfish of organized crime or at the very least a serious menace to the nation. They showed no warrant either when arresting her or seizing her property. Surely this is highly irregular? What does the media have to say about this complete overstepping of bounds by the police? Or is such censure reserved only for women who step out of bounds?

At the same time let’s contrast the extraordinary treatment of Latoya Nugent with the relative lack of resolve of the Police when confronted with actual gangsters and threats to the nation. In such cases Police are impotent, apparently, until some external government flexes its muscles and insists that the Jamaican Police do their job.

Thus the Gleaner recently editorialized about the fact that “since 2006, lottery scammers have operated in St James and other parts of western Jamaica with virtual impunity, and they have been sullying Jamaica’s name internationally.” The scammers have terrorized Western Jamaica unstemmed by police action, as they went about their business of fleecing thousands of elderly Americans. Pointing out that It was the extradition of an alleged mastermind and eight others at the insistence of the US that had finally prompted police action, the Gleaner lambasted “the tepid response of the Jamaican justice system.”

“This newspaper believes it is quite humiliating that our local authorities have been largely impotent in investigating and bringing to justice the people behind scamming, which are said to include police officers… Jamaica… has demonstrated that it is weak in its attempt at reining in criminals, whether they are white-collar offenders who ravage people via Ponzi schemes, or they are heavily armed street gangs.”

Is it too much to ask that some of the zeal displayed by the Police in arresting and charging impolite women be diverted to the apprehension and prosecution of real criminals? Meanwhile as Stella Gibson, Latoya Nugent’s alter ego said on Facebook:

“As long as I breathe abusers will never silence me.
As long as I breathe paedophiles will never silence me.
As long as I breathe sexual predators will never silence me.
As long as I breathe, the state will never silence me.”

Rudies don’t fear (as the song goes), rudies don’t fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Media Economies…

The rapidly shifting technological landscape and its effects on media.

It was just a few weeks ago that I was on a radio programme with some of the head honchos of local TV/Cable TV programming arguing about the broadcast locally of NBC’s programme The Voice. I was trying to explain that the era of ‘exclusivity’ broadly speaking was on its way out and that perhaps buying the ‘exclusive rights’ to broadcast a popular American TV show, then thwarting your viewers by not broadcasting the show live because you think you now have a captive audience might not be the way to go in the future.

The head honchos were most indignant at the very suggestion, pouring scorn on it and making out that I was 20 years behind the times when it was clearly they who were out of the loop. Haven’t you seen what’s happening to traditional media, I asked. Haven’t you noticed what’s happened to the distribution and consumption of music globally? Haven’t you been following the death of huge newspapers  all over the world? Why do you think TV’s going to be immune from these trends? Oh no, said they, I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.

Well, less than a month later here are some news stories that prove my point. Of course they’re mostly about media in the USA but have no doubt, the winds of change are not going to leave Jamaica unscathed, much as our media heads would like to think so.

It makes me laugh to see the two local newspapers offering subscriptions to their digital editions at a measly 20% discount when the New York Times is available at an introductory rate of 99c for a month.  Quite frankly the difference between them is comparable to that between a Rolls Royce and a Lada so no prize for guessing which one I’d choose if I have to pay similar rates for both. The NYT is US$3.75 a week, the Gleaner is $2.99 a week and at  JMD$ 1,248.00 per month the Jamaica Observer is similar in range to the Gleaner. For the $3.75 a week I can also get 100 articles from the NYT archive per month, an incredible value in itself. Neither of the local papers offers any such incentive. I’d be curious to know what their digital subscription figures are. Joke ting dat as they’d say here.

Anyway, have a look at the articles below. The first one is a real gift with all sorts of graphs and table and statistics measuring the decline of traditional media, the other one covers the departure of top US TV host Katie Couric from the ABC network to Yahoo, that stalwart of new media. It’s a sign of the times, let’s hope our head honchos either get with it or we get new head honchos who ARE with it. Soon.

Well, how are these media outlets going to sustain themselves you might well ask, if they’re not able to charge subscribers? Other more creative ways have to be found of building a subscription base, as the third article  demonstrates. Using a wildly innovative model based on the concept of property ownership, an unapologetic real estate trope, NSFWCORP rapidly increases its subscriber base by offering customized plans of ownership at different rates. Another example of mass customization, an organizing principle that is coming to rule the day.

Finally, a little brawta or extra, sent to me by @marciaforbes on Twitter, a piece on ‘triple-play revenues’, new kinds of bundling arrangements that represent the future for media subscription models.

TV Is Dying, And Here Are The Stats That Prove It

Slide079Business Insider

The TV business is having its worst year ever.Audience ratings have collapsed: Aside from a brief respite during the Olympics, there has been only negative ratings growth on broadcast and cable TV since September 2011, according to Citi Research.Media stock analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson recently noted, “The pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever.” All the major TV providers lost a collective 113,000 subscribers in Q3 2013. That doesn’t sound like a huge deal — but it includes internet subscribers, too.

Broadband internet was supposed to benefit from the end of cable TV, but it hasn’t.

In all, about 5 million people ended their cable and broadband subs between the beginning of 2010 and the end of this year.

We’re at the beginning of a major historical shift from watching TV to watching video — including TV shows and movies — on the internet or on mobile devices.

This is going to hurt cable TV providers.

Nearly 5 million cable TV subscribers have gone elsewhere in the last five years. The number of cable TV-only subscribers remaining could sink below 40 million later this year, according to this data from ISI Group, an equity research firm (at right).

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/cord-cutters-and-the-death-of-tv-2013-11#ixzz2lh01XAPA

Does Katie Couric’s Move to Yahoo Signal the End of Old Media Dominance?

The Indiscreet Charm of Jamaican Media-cracy

Jamaican media trips over itself in its haste to curtail freedom of speech

 

Clovis Toon
Clovis, Jamaica Observer, July 27, 2013

 

In the last six months I’ve virtually stopped buying the newspapers completely, even the Sunday papers which was all I had been buying for some years now. Last Sunday I decided to buy the papers just to see if any of our esteemed columnists had mentioned the gruesome mob killing of Dwayne Jones which had occurred less than a week before.

Alas not a single one had commented on it nor did I find anything else pertaining to the cross dresser’s murder in any of the numerous sections which piled up on the floor as I went through them.

I did read something that gave me pause on the Gleaner’s editorial page. The editorial addressed Milton Samuda’s extremely strange behaviour in the wake of a press conference involving Olympians Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, and the recent controversy the two were embroiled in. Samuda, a lawyer, is the lead attorney for the two athletes whose ‘A samples’ had tested positive for banned substances.

In what has proven to be a clear case of wearing one hat too many, Mr. Samuda (also the chairman of Television Jamaica (TVJ) and board member of its parent company RJR—virtually the only journalists allowed at the press conference were from these two entities), first demanded that journalists stick to a pre-approved list of questions and when they departed from this, used his managerial clout to demand that the reporters surrender their recording devices to him. Perhaps cowed by his powerful position the journalists meekly handed over their devices. The next day the recordings were returned with the offending questions and answers edited out.

As the Gleaner editorial correctly pointed out “Mr. Samuda’s role as defence lawyer and a custodian of the media collided violently in this case.” He had flouted one of the fundamental rules of journalism–freedom of speech. The journalists concerned were also taken to task for spinelessly submitting to Samuda’s imperious demands.

I then moved on to the bottom two thirds of the editorial page which is devoted to a segment called Public Affairs. ‘Ineptocracy Squared’ blared the headline to an article by Gordon Robinson, who normally writes a regular column in the Gleaner’s In Focus section. The opening of the article informed me that this was a thing of the past.

“People ask me why I no longer write for The Gleaner,” began Robinson, going on to explain the convoluted circumstances which led to his resignation as a Gleaner columnist:

Here’s how it happened. In a column headlined ‘Ineptocracy at the Racetrack’ published May 14, 2013, I took Andrew Azar to task for his silly and baseless comments made before a meeting intended, in my opinion, for Caymanas Track Limited’s (CTL) CEO and “stakeholders” to discuss and explain the board’s previously announced intention to cut purses.

… To my surprise, Andrew, absent when the board’s decision was announced, attended that meeting with “stakeholders” and made inflammatory statements, which could only have the effect of undermining the very board of which he was a member. In that context, as a result of that unexpected input, the meeting (and its purpose) was “crashed”. I pointed out why his public utterances were, in my opinion, inappropriate, inaccurate, reckless and improper. I tried to educate Andrew Azar on how to “separate his personal role from his role as CTL director”. I reminded that no company director is appointed to “serve” any interest but that of the company, and cited Section 174 of the Companies Act as authority for that trite law.

Well, to paraphrase the great Paul Keens-Douglas, who tell me say so? The Gleaner (not me) got a letter from a lawyer. Instead of finding the nearest trash receptacle, most serious newspapers’ preferred place to file lawyers’ letters, it took the letter seriously.

Without going into the ins and outs of this complicated case let me just say I found the irony of the situation quite funny. In the wake of Robinson’s criticisms Azar’s lawyers issued the Gleaner with a defamation claim. According to Robinson the Gleaner rushed to publish an apology  without so much as pausing to find out if there was any merit to the claim:

Nobody asked Mr Jobson [Azar’s lawyer] to specify which of my words were defamatory and what defamatory meanings were alleged. Nobody asked to see the alleged invitation. Nobody reminded Mr Franz Jobson that an opinion (that Azar, a public official politically appointed to a government-owned company, “crashed the meeting”) honestly held, based on uncontested published material wasn’t actionable no matter how stubbornly the columnist stuck to the opinion in the face of competing assertions. It never occurred to The Gleaner that it wasn’t in any way demeaning to Azar to allege that he “crashed” a meeting that, as board member, he was absolutely entitled to “crash”.

In a rush, like Beenie Man, The Gleaner‘s editor offered Azar an “apology”. For what? For quoting him accurately? For making a fair and unassailable critique of the nonsense he spouted? The Gleaner‘s editor published an “apology” that asserted the newspaper was “satisfied” Azar was invited to the meeting. Well, whoop-de-doo! Again, so what?

How on earth had Gordon managed to get the Gleaner to carry this Jeremiad detailing their own fecklessness right under an editorial in which they were chiding the board member of a rival entity, RJR’s Milton Samuda, for abusing his powers? The answer came towards the end of the article.

The Gleaner‘s unnecessary apology damaged my own reputation as a senior counsel and one of Jamaica’s foremost horse-racing experts,” said Robinson who no doubt slapped the newspaper with a defamation claim of his own. And trust me there is nothing that frightens a Jamaican media entity more than the threat of a libel or defamation suit. Merely mention the word ‘libel’ and the editors will be reduced to shivering, quivering wrecks willing to toss freedom of speech out the window along with the baby and its bathwater.

What can one do but laugh at this absurd state of affairs? The Gleaner takes to task the journalists who bowed to Samuda’s edict that they hand over their recordings but when it’s faced with a similar situation jumps with alacrity to offer an apology when none is required. Ay Sah! All I can do is shake my head at the farce that passes for journalism in this country and for the long-suffering, stellar journos who are stuck in this mess.