The Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation

On this day in history, June 15, 1959, the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) launched as a public broadcasting company in Jamaica founded by premier Norman Manley. The aim of the station was to emulate the success of other national broadcasting companies such as the BBC and CBC.

Jamaica had commercial radio stations since the 1930s, but these were controlled by foreign companies and programming consisted of imported shows and music. The JBC was established by legislation in December 1958 as a state owned and statutory corporation and launched on June 15 1959 providing a greater focus on Jamaican culture, as Jamaicans sought to celebrate their own culture in the.

In the early days of the JBC, the corporation had a resident big band featuring musicians such as Ernest Ranglin and Sonny Bradshaw and a drama department producing original programs. The JBC radio channel that began broadcasting in 1959 played a major part in the development of the Jamaican music industry, giving previously-unavailable airtime to Jamaican musicians.

JBC Television began broadcasting on August 6, 1963, the first anniversary of Jamaica’s independence, but financial concerns saw the schedules increasingly filled with programs imported from the US and the UK.

The links to government, however, also caused problems with accusations of partisan journalism. A change in government in 1962 led to accusations of JBC journalists favoring the previous PNP government which led to one of the longest strikes in Jamaican history in 1964.By the end of the strike most of the news journalists had been replaced.

When Michael Manley, the son of Norman Manley, was elected Prime Minister in 1972, he aimed to use the JBC as a vehicle for building the nation. Government funding for original Jamaican programming was increased, with news and documentary programs such as Public Eye, and Jamaica’s first soap opera, Lime Tree Lane. By the 1980s, JBC had television, two national radio stations and several regional radio stations. Under Prime Minister Edward Seaga and the US-led Structural Adjustment model which encouraged the privatisation of public services with the selling off of the regional radio stations. These became Radio Waves (HOT 102), KLAS-FM and IRIE-FM. The entire newsroom staff were also dismissed for being too critical of conservative positions, and replaced with journalists considered sympathetic to Seaga’s government. Foreign programming began again, largely sourced from the US.

In 1997 Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, under the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica Act divested the JBC, with an announcement of the creation of a new organization, the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica (PBCJ) to provide public broadcasting. The television and the Radio 2 assets were sold to the Radio Jamaica Limited (RJR) for $70 million, Jamaican dollars, and the former JBC television channel was replaced by the commercial station Television Jamaica. The Radio 1 studios and license were retained by the government but fell into disrepair. The PBCJ broadcasted its first transmission in March 2006 which was followed by a series of test transmissions with full broadcasting services commencing on 16 October 2006.

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