Oct 13, 2015 News
…$20M in equipment was left still wrapped in plastic for two years
Satellite uplink facilities purchased by the National Communications Network (NCN), two years ago and capable of broadcasting ‘The Learning Channel’ can be made operable in as little as two weeks.
This is according to a senior official in the Department of the Director of Public Information, a unit that has since taken on oversight of NCN.
According to the official who spoke to this newspaper on the condition of anonymity, the equipment which was purchased at a cost of in excess of $20M only requires a ‘base station’ and a ‘hut’ to house it at which point in time it can be brought online.
Kaieteur News, over the weekend, broke the news that NCN had purchased the equipment two years ago but the then government instead of using it, opted to continue to pay TVG 28, now owned by Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, a whopping $3.6M monthly, to broadcast The Learning Channel.
The insider told Kaieteur News that while it is difficult to ascertain specifically on whose instructions the equipment remained idle, the fact is that it is only a small circle in the then government that could have effected such a situation.
It was pointed out too that a $23M purchase of equipment had to be approved at a senior level. As such the previous administration cannot claim ignorance. It had to have known that the equipment was lying idle.
Further this publication has since learnt that not only does NCN own its satellite uplink, it is also capable of having any event occurring locally broadcast live not only across Guyana but throughout the Caribbean Region and even in North America.
This publication was told that while there is currently not in train any plans to have the equipment brought online with any haste, it will be made operational by the end of the year.
The contract with TVG 28 comes to an end in December and the administration has already signaled its intention to not have the contract renewed.
The present coalition Government, when it was in the Opposition had accused the previous administration of deliberately positioning TVG and Ramroop to receive $3.6M monthly ($43.2M annually) for transmitting the signals.
“What this means is that the previous government had been knowingly paying $3.6M a month to the Ramroop Group (owner of TVG) when these monies could have been paid to NCN instead,” an incensed senior Government functionary told Kaieteur News over the weekend.
But Ramroop was renting satellite bandwidth at a cost of $3 million per month.
In April 2011, months before he ended his constitutional two terms in office, former President Jagdeo announced the launch of The Learning Channel.
That same month, the then Government also announced that it will be using Cable Channel 80 as The Learning Channel for broadcasts in the city and its environs. Different frequencies are being used for outlying areas.
Details of the deal with TVG were not made known until two years later, in April 2013, when former Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, in response to questions by then Opposition Member of Parliament Jaipaul Sharma, disclosed that $3.6M was being paid monthly to Ramroop’s TVG.
TVG, it has been reported, collected $70M in 2011 (some $5.83 million per month) for the transmission of the channel throughout the country, using a dish network receiver system for remote communities.
The Learning Channel is described as a non-commercial, apolitical educational television broadcast network, focused on education, since it started up on April 2011.
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