By Alexander Apostolides on February 11, 2010

Don’t send messages to radio stations!

I am a big fan of “Super Sport Fm”. I like their programmes, especially when you can call and have debates with other fans. That’s why i was upset on the 24th of September 2009. At around 10:30 Mr Kostakis Kostantinou, of the show “Kostakis kai paseis Kuprou”, became very upset from a text message sent to by a mobile phone. The message was sent to the station and not to Mr. Konstatninou’s phone. However, Mr. Kostantinou told the whole mobile number on air and told his listeners “to show the guy who texted what kind of a rotten man he is”.

I was appalled because I quickly realised that if this is legal then the whole system the radio station was based was threatened: an employee released private data sent to in confidence to the station to the public domain. I always thought that your mobile number is kept in confidence and then discarded. I did not like the fact that the person swore at Mr. Kostantinou, but I felt the station had other ways to deal with this, such as blocking the number from sending messages or by Mr. Konstatinou telling him to buzz of by just telling the last 3 digits of his number.

I contacted the radio station and the promised to look up the issue. On the 29th of September the same thing happened again with the same radio presenter. Thus I made a formal complaint to the Cyprus telecommunication authority. I contacted the station again and I was assured that the station realised the error of Mr. Konstantinou and he was told on no uncertain terms never to release information provided to the station in confidence. Thus the station’s response was awesome: they soon realised how this incident could hurt their credibility. The incident never happened again and I soon forgot about it.

Today I received a letter from the telecommunication authority: it argued that there was not violation of the regulatory law and regulations of broadcasting of 1998 and 2000; I am guessing this was because the data protection act was signed in Cyprus much later at around 2006. Thus the authority did not believe the Mr. Konstantinou’s actions fell under their remit.

So I called the new independent service of data protection that was opened recently with so much fanfare. I was put through to Ms Noni Abraam. She was puzzled why i even bothered: since i was not the man whose number was publicly broadcasted: I explained the reason of my concern and asked her if she would report seeing someone steal a car even if it was not hers. I explained that it bothered since it meant that employees of any TV and Radio station could collect private data such as our numbers sent to their shows and sell them to advertising companies or political parties without my consent, and that at no time did any station tell us what it did with the numbers its collects. She answered that although she believes Mr. Kosntatinou acted improperly, she does not believe that radio and television is under their remit.

So there you have it: every time you call or txt on tv the radio station (especially if you add your full name for a competition) then the station has the right to sell off that number database to the highest bidder without consulting you simply because the two independent authorities do not have the teeth / correct attitude and prefer this matter to fall in the no-man’s lands between their remit. I feel that all these new bodies being created are toothless and thus useless and have managed to gain the civil service mentality of “why bother” very quickly.

This is the best description of Cyprus coming out of this example: expect nothing from governmental organisations; except less than nothing from semi-government organisations; and if you want anything done, go to the private sector.

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