Dec 04, 2013 News
– Authorities promise investigations
The country’s regulators are moving to investigate reports that a radio company misused its licence by illegally operating three different broadcast stations on frequencies that should have been used as repeater stations for an extended broadcast.
Chairperson of the Guyana National Broadcast Authority (GNBA), Bibi Shadick, also said yesterday that the broadcast authority is hiring a number of lawyers to go after television and other broadcasters who are operating without
During a press conference at her South Road office, yesterday, to update on the work of GNBA, Shadick made it clear that it would be a breach of law for any company issued with multiple frequencies to use them to transmit different content instead of being utilized specifically as relays to reach outlying areas.
The company, Radio Guyana Inc. (RGI) is reportedly broadcasting on 89.3FM (Essequibo), 89.5FM (Georgetown) and 89.7FM (Berbice). Under the conditions of the licence granted, the radio station would use one frequency to broadcast with the rest to increase its signals.
Observers have complained that RGI, owned by Queens Atlantic Investments Inc. (QAII), a company with close links to former President Bharrat Jagdeo, has instead been really operating three different stations.
Shadick yesterday said she is unaware of the possible breaches but will investigate.
However, the official disclosed that GNBA is taking any breaches seriously with the law expected to take its course. She maintained that the current broadcasting laws are clear on the actions. In the past, under the old regulations, authorities have used their powers to even seize broadcasting equipment.
One TV station on East Coast Demerara, HGP Television Channel 16/Cable 67, she said, was warned after moving equipment intended for a relay to its primary location and then transmitting on another frequency. The station has received its licence but has been told to halt broadcasting on the other.
There have been fears that the multiple frequencies, controversially granted by former President Bharrat Jagdeo, would have been used for setting up numerous radio stations. However, Government has been reassuring that this can never happen, that the additional frequencies were for use as repeater stations.
Days before he ended his term in office back in 2011, Jagdeo breached a decade-long agreement with the Opposition not to issue new licences by approving permission for several radio stations and a number of cable TV operations.
QAII got five frequencies. So too did the New Guyana Company, printers of the Mirror, the ruling party’s newspaper, and the overseas-based sister of Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud.
Several media houses, including Kaieteur News, Stabroek News, Capitol News, CNS 6 and WRHM were all bypassed, sparking days of protests. Back then, it was felt that it was a move to give a few persons who are close to the administration, total control of the airwaves. A few others were given one frequency each.
Yesterday, Shadick said that GNBA is still to start examining new applications. Kaieteur News and several media houses had been asked to make fresh applications. The official is hoping to start the process before the year is over, but could not give a deadline.
She said that her broadcast authority will be meeting by December 16, next.
So far, under the regularization of the airwaves, GNBA has issued television licences to TVG 28, GWTV Channel 2, Pinnacle Channel 8, MTV Channel 65, CNS Channel 6, DTV Channel 8 and HBTV Channel 9.
Radio licences have also been issued to RGI, Telecor and Cultural Broadcasting Inc. ( the company linked to Minister Persaud), NTN 89.1FM and Hits and Jams Entertainment.
For the cable TV licences, GNBA would have issued licences for E-Networks, Atlantic Cable Networks, Ali Broadcasting Corporation, Infinity Telecommunications and E3 Communications.
According to Shadick, two television licences were issued to Countryside Broadcasting and Guyana Learning Channel. Spectrum and broadcasting fees will be waived for the state-owned Guyana Learning Channel.
However, several others are not in order, and in some cases have not paid their fees.These may be facing trouble.
While there was an October 31 deadline by the GNBA for all operators to be licenced, the move by the authority to now hire lawyers is significant as several operators are without licences and with only a few weeks remaining for the year.
Quark Communications which has been approved a cable TV licence by Jagdeo, has problems with the name of its company.
Approval letters have been issued to Skar TV 102; WRHM which is eligible for two licences; 21st Century Communications and RBS 13. RBS 13 and HGP TV 16/67 are two of four companies which have sued over new broadcasting fees which have been introduced.
Also without licences are NTN TV and radio stations; New Guyana Company Limited (The Mirror); Rudy Grant radio, Wireless Connections radio; Linden Wireless; Pinnacle Radio and TTS of Bartica.
The GNBA official said that its monitoring arm has been activated to regulate the broadcasts to ensure compliance. The monitoring committee of the GNBA comprises Major General (Ret’d), Norman McLean; University of Guyana’s communication specialist, Dr Paloma Mohamed; head of the Guyana Learning Channel, Seeta Shah-Roath and attorneys-at-law, Fazil Azeez and Sase Gunraj. Azeez is a veteran broadcaster. McLean was a former member of the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB).
Shadick does not see Shah-Roath’s presence as being a conflict on the monitoring committee as the Guyana Learning Channel is not considered a competitor to the normal TV operations.
The committee’s first task will be to revamp old regulations to fit the new laws.
Questioned whether GNBA may be moving too slowly to process new applications, thus allowing the current operators time to expand, Shadick pointed out that Trinidad took four years to get its act together.
She admitted that there will be complaints but the authority would prefer to take its time than rush.
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