No law preventing transmission of music made by convicts

Dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel, who has been convicted of murder, is seen in this file photo leaving the Supreme Court during his trial in 2014. (Photo: Jamaica Observer)

The Broadcasting Commission has pointed out that there is no law preventing the transmission of music created by convicts. At the same time, the commission is assuring Jamaicans that it is not ignoring the controversial issue and has developed three response strategies.

They include engaging schoolchildren on managing harmful media content; recommending legislation requiring the holders of broadcast licences to have a central system governing the receipt, evaluation and approval of music for broadcast; and continued focus on the legal boundaries for treating with content made by convicted individuals.

The commission was responding to last Thursday’s Jamaica Observer editorial commenting on the controversy sparked by convicted murderer Vybz Kartel winning five of this year’s Youth View Awards.

Here is the full text of the Broadcasting Commission’s response.

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The Broadcasting Commission notes the editorial in the February 23, 2017 edition of the Jamaica Observer, titled ‘The Youth View Awards brouhaha’. It was stated that the organisers of the Youth View Awards (YVAs) contend that Kartel’s songs “from prison” are being played on most radio stations and his videos on television, and the Broadcasting Commission should answer for that.

The Observer might recall that when Adidja Palmer was to be sentenced, the judge had reportedly directed his mind to whether he would have been able to make music in prison and if the punishment should extend to his music catalogue. The court made no orders in relation to that matter, presumably because the appropriate authority would be the Department of Correctional Services. To be clear, as it concerns convicts, their privilege or ability to create music whilst incarcerated is governed by correctional rules.

In July 2016, the Broadcasting Commission initiated a meeting with the commissioner of corrections and officials of the Ministry of National Security to discuss our concerns about anecdotal evidence that Adidja Palmer had been making recordings from prison. We were made to understand that the Department of Correctional Services was investigating the allegations and that no determination had been made on the matter.

We also learnt that the prison rules were under review to deal specifically with that issue. The Broadcasting Commission was also advised that music creation is a part of the prison rehabilitation programme. We have offered to assist the correctional services in crafting appropriate and effective rules and will continue our dialogue on this matter.

The question of whether prisoners should be allowed to create music in prison or have their works broadcast evokes public sensibilities and positions differ on it, sharply. The Broadcasting Commission shares public concerns that the airwaves should not be used in a manner which is celebratory of a person convicted of murder. However, there is no provision in law barring the transmission of music, simply because it was created by a convicted person. Only if it were proved that the music was created in contravention of a law governing the correctional services and a broadcaster knowingly facilitated that contravention, could there be a lawful determination that the broadcasting rules were breached.

As the editorial acknowledged, the issue is much broader than radio and television because we live in an age when many people, particularly youth, receive, create and share content on social media.

For our part, the Broadcasting Commission is responding in three ways. We are very focused on media and digital literacy, especially in schools. Over the past five years we have been engaging primary and high school-aged children about the opportunities and challenges of the digital economy and society, how they should identify and manage harmful media content, managing their ‘digital selves’ and the continued relevance of values.

We have also recommended to Government that it be written in the broadcasting law that each holder of a licence must have a central system which governs the receipt, evaluation and approval of music for broadcast, thereby removing the ability of individual disc jocks to decide what is played, without any reference to management. The public is also assured that this sensitive issue of the legal boundaries for treating with content made by convicted persons is on the radar of the newly appointed commission, building on the initiative of the last commission which ended its term in November 2016.

The Broadcasting Commission does not take public concerns about broadcast content lightly. We are taking note of the range of views that are being expressed, such as those in the editorial. In the end, we will protect the right to freedom of expression whilst taking account of the realities of the age in which we live, our role as custodians of shared values and our responsibility to the youth who are trustees of posterity.

Cordel Green

Executive Director

Broadcasting Commission


  1. I am a firm believer in freedom of expression n stand with French Hero Voltaire in defense of ppl’s right to do as such. However it is understood this freedom is extended to those who have not done any act that results in the justifiable limitation or forfieture of their freedom.

    I for one think if you are rapist n the judge wrongfully rule u should be imprisoned instead of stringing u up by ur eyelashes/toenails n gutting u like hog…we ought not to be hearing from you. Like seriously who wants to hear from a convicted rapist? ?

    Yet still we did n yes I loved Jah Cure’s prison music not so much his free a road stuff.Hence how do we strike that thin delicate tight rope balance between freedom of expression and public order,decency in circumstances where the prisoner by his deeds shifts what was a right into now a privilege?

    1. Fork tongue green.

      If the convict is in prison for muder (not self defense manslaughter) or any kind of heinous acts, then he or she should be barred from public display of expression, through any type of medium…i.e., Kartel, and kid ralph.

      Broadcasting commission been sleeping for years.

      1. Cordel a mi bonafide fren enuh PP..his hands tied so is really the chairman a the problem I swear mi nah pick up fi mi fren.

        1. lolol….him no fi say dem working. Why? If they were working kartel wouldn’t have surface with his nasty material..and a years now.

          Me cuss badwords and talk about sex…but him mek all me blush.

  2. HELLOO all who a have baby bout this, the type of music is indeed matters of concern, apart from that this artist has his fan base which none a dem other artist free outa door cannot dear go near, while some have ligit concerns, bad mind prominent stevie wonder can see wa mi sey the only so called monkey who broadcast live via satellite DONT FORGET THAT, and if any promoter run out and want a repeat see if the show no sell off, this lucrative business man put himself in deep do-do, poor us Jamaicans whether we want or not we wear a criminal shut everybody want to be us, and hate us at the same time, anyone get any calls its almost 90odd persons land in Jamaica on Friday so…. even if a little credit u can help wid sen it, I heard it on wavs1170 last night, they were telling people what kind a ID to walk with, tek bad ting mek laff, addi cant depote im belong a Jamaica if zekes could sing u would hear another set a songs

  3. PP is not the main stream buss n promote kartel enuh.It was the underground n streets . then Rvssuian gave him legitimacy so uptown ppl accept kartel. Then professor Carolyn Cooper gave him a platform n the educated ppl became hooked. His rise was mostly outside the ambit of the broadcasting commission.

    Tell u what I will whatsapp mi boss Cordel n mek him avail himself to answer n put forward the various positions n points. Looking like tomorrow thing doah dearest PP.

    1. Great YardieT.

      All that dung inna throat tune whey all in a woolworth me hear it on a radio….how dat pass dno?

      One time airwaves got jammed. Is that no longer possible?

  4. All the idiots making justification for his music being played on radio, because of a large fan-base- clearly do not understand that radio is a public platform. As so are other media outlets. Anyone who has lost the basic freedoms to life, such as: time to shit, time to masturbate, time to suck cack or time to legitimately indulge in activities they find pleasurable, should not be given the ability to do anything in a public forum, unless granted under special circumstances. When one is in prison, those circumstances would have to be granted by a judge- a judge who would decipher if it was in deed highly favorable to the public.

    Anyone who is in prison cannot in fact have their music banned. That is where the “underground” comes into play. So yes his music will never stop being played in the dancehall, nor inna uno yard weh uno can long out uno tongue, put the big cack inna uno mouth and play Kartel when uno mouth a bum pan the cack.

    Having incacerated individuals in main stream media is sending a very strong message to the youth. And fi who dunce Mek mi tell uno weh the message be- It a seh them no haffi worry cause life a prison sweet. And let us be real the majority of prisoners are not dj’s. Therefore it will be a huge wake up call to a drug user, a mango tree climber, a fresh air lover, a chicken eating lover et,. Because in prison you can’t do any of those.

    Maybe we should start telling our youths that before going to prison get a career where you are in the media, that way you will be able to still have a career when incarcerated.

    Quick question- I am a professional you tuber. If I go to prison can I still make my videos. I do make-up tutorials- my fans would die without their daily make up updates.

    God bless the lives of the families that have lost loved ones to murderers.

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