Phone book BACK­LASH

Church lobby forces Yel­low Pages to find al­ter­na­tive scene for di­rec­tory cover

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter

JA­MAICA’S CHURCH lobby has forced the pub­lish­ers of the 2017 Yel­low Pages to pro­duce an al­ter­na­tive ver­sion of the tele­phone di­rec­tory be­cause of an “of­fen­sive” dance­hall de­pic­tion it says is spread­ing “wrong” val­ues.

The Ja­maica Coali­tion for a Healthy So­ci­ety led the cam­paign against the di­rec­tory, which Global Direc­to­ries Ltd was hop­ing would cel­e­brate in­dige­nous Jamaican mu­sic.

The de­pic­tion at the cen­tre of the con­tro­versy shows a reg­gae scene with scant­ily clad women danc­ing with men at what ap­pears to be a typ­i­cal street ses­sion.

“We have chal­lenges with our young peo­ple in terms of the val­ues, the con­duct that they are be­ing ex­posed to. We thought that what was dis­played there wasn’t some­thing that was ben­e­fi­cial,” said Dr Wayne West, chair­man of the coali­tion.

“We didn’t think that scene, which was sort of a dance­hall scene, was ideal. It wasn’t the best thing that could have been done for the Yel­low Pages – some­thing which is so widely distributed and which is sup­posed to be the prod­uct of a com­pany that should be seek­ing to el­e­vate rather than to en­cour­age be­hav­iour that is not nec­es­sar­ily ideal.”

Yes­ter­day, Ian Neita, chief ex­ec­u­tive

of­fi­cer of Global Direc­to­ries, said while the com­pany would not apol­o­gise for us­ing the scene, it un­der­stood the Chris­tian group’s con­cerns.

“In our re­sponse to their let­ter, we apol­o­gised for of­fend­ing them be­cause it was not the in­ten­tion to of­fend them. We’re not ac­cept­ing that the de­pic­tion was of­fen­sive be­cause that is a mat­ter of in­ter­pre­ta­tion,” Neita told The Gleaner.

“We have pro­vided an al­ter­na­tive cover for in­sti­tu­tions such as churches and schools. Any­body who is of­fended by that de­pic­tion, they’ll have a choice in hav­ing a re­place­ment,” he said, adding that the con­tro­ver­sial de­pic­tion done by Ray­mond Jack­son would re­main in cir­cu­la­tion.

Three direc­to­ries are printed for Ja­maica yearly: one for Kingston and St An­drew, an is­land­wide pub­li­ca­tion, and one res­i­den­tial. The con­tro­ver­sial pic­ture is on the cover of the di­rec­tory for Kingston and St An­drew.

Ska is on the res­i­den­tial di­rec­tory, while the scene de­pict­ing reg­gae is dis­played on the is­land­wide copy.

In the reg­gae scene, scant­ily clad women are shown danc­ing with men at what ap­pears to be a typ­i­cal street dance.

Neita said that the com­pany ad­mit­ted that there’s a “com­mer­cial and prin­ci­pled” as­pect to the de­ci­sion to print an al­ter­na­tive ver­sion.

“A church may be listed in the book [and] once they ad­ver­tise in the book. In a kind of way, they be­come a co-spon­sor. If it were a pri­vate mag­a­zine that we were putting for­ward in the pub­lic space, I think it would be a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. I don’t think we’re re­sil­ing from a prin­ci­pled po­si­tion by say­ing, ‘Hey, I’ll give you an al­ter­na­tive’.”

Ques­tioned on whether the com­pany was set­ting a bad prece­dent by ap­peas­ing the church group, Neita said the “power” of the lo­cal re­li­gious lobby could not be ig­nored.

“In our so­ci­ety, the Church is a pow­er­ful lobby. We are a so­ci­ety that is fun­da­men­tally based on Chris­tian prin­ci­ples. I don’t think it’s some­thing that we can dis­re­gard. I’d like to think we kind of took the high road rather,” he said.

“We still ended up hav­ing both (gen­res of mu­sic).”

Mean­while, dance­hall ex­pert Dr Donna Hope said she did not see any­thing wrong with the scene.

“Dance­hall cul­ture is a very im­por­tant part of Jamaican youth cul­ture, and a dance­hall scene on the front of the Yel­low Pages, I and oth­ers thought it was an ap­pro­pri­ate kind of im­age in a coun­try where dance­hall con­tin­ues to pro­vide re­sponse to and in­for­ma­tion about who we are as a peo­ple.”

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