Nov 28, 2015 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
The Board of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has set up a special committee to review all issues relating to broadcasting licences as well as examine the validity of some licences.
Head of the Authority, Leonard Craig, told Kaieteur News yesterday that the Board had already discussed licences, but did not look into them in detail. He said that the Board recently made the decision to set up a sub committee which is mandated to submit a report on Thursday, December 10. That committee is chaired by veteran broadcaster, Anthony Vieira.
The committee is expected to recommend to the Board, which broadcasting licences definitely need to be revoked and those that need further review. However, the final decision lies with the Board.
Craig said that the issues relating to broadcasting licences are taking priority for the Board along with some internal management issues.
When contacted, Vieira gave Kaieteur News further details as to what is expected of the committee. He said that it has on its agenda a task to look, in-depth, at the entire fee structure.
Vieira said that the fee has to be adjusted reasonably so that it can be in harmony with the different classes of licences. He explained that the fee attached to a class of licence for a Broadcasting station operating in Georgetown should not be the same as one operating in New Amsterdam.
The committee Chairman listed the four classes of licences – primary, secondary, tertiary and community.
He said that licences to operate in Georgetown will be classified in a Primary class as the capital is definitely the largest zone for income. Meanwhile, someone who wants to operate in the town of New Amsterdam will need a Secondary licence and a broadcaster who wants to operate in Linden or Lethem will need a tertiary licence. A broadcaster seeking to operate out of Mahaicony will need a community class licence.
Vieira explained that the Broadcasting Act 2011 stipulates such a system so that different licences will attract different fees.
“A licence to operate in Georgetown should not attract the same price as one in Mahaicony, that’s just wrong,” said Vieira.
The Chairman pointed out that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration never bothered to ensure such systems were in place, even though it is mandated by the Broadcasting Act.
The said Act also mandates the Authority to carry out surveys and investigations of broadcasters’ income, so as to set a fair broadcasting fee. Therefore, it should not be an across the board fee.
Vieira said that because he is a broadcaster and he is chairing the committee, no investigations will be carried out by that committee.
He, like Craig, said that the committee will look at all radio licences distributed by former President Bharrat Jagdeo before he left office, with an eye to determine whether they were legally granted or not. That committee will also look at the $2.5M radio licence fee and review applications for licences that were ignored during the reign of the PPP.
Bharrat Jagdeo, before ending his two terms in office in 2011, approved several radio and cable television licences for mainly friends and his party members. In so doing, he sidelined applications from several prominent media houses including Kaieteur News, Stabroek News, Capitol News, HBTV Channel Nine and CNS Channel Six. This was despite a standing agreement for no new licences until new broadcasting regulations and the GNBA were in place.
Jagdeo’s best friend, Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, received one with multiple frequencies. Also receiving a similar number of frequencies was The Mirror, a newspaper which belongs to the ruling party and Telcor, a company with close links to the then Natural Resources Minister, Robert Persaud.
The disclosures of the licences, which also included approval for two cable TV operations, sparked court cases and several days of protests, as well as local and international condemnation.
Craig, during a previous interview, had told Kaieteur News that he will also address outstanding radio applications. This was confirmed by Vieira.
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