Latest update March 26th, 2023 12:59 AM
Jan 05, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
The Board of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has found that the conditions under
which former President Bharrat Jagdeo granted 11 radio licences in 2011 contradicts the law as well as political agreements that were in place at the time.
Arriving at such a conclusion, the GNBA has decided that it will soon move to revoke all the licences issued in such a manner.
GNBA had set up a special committee to review all issues relating to broadcasting licences as well as examine the validity of some licences.
That committee is chaired by veteran broadcaster, Anthony Vieira. The committee looked at all radio licences distributed by Jagdeo before he left office, with an eye to determine whether they were lawfully granted.
Vieira spoke to Kaieteur News yesterday about the findings of the sub-committee after a series of meetings.
He said that the committee found that it would be wrong to allow those licences to stand.
Vieira told Kaieteur News that the committee considered that fact that in 2001, as a result of the dialogue between Jagdeo and then opposition leader, the late, Desmond Hoyte, it was agreed that no new licenses for either radio or television would be issued until an impartial and autonomous Broadcast Authority was formed.
Further, he said that the communique between Corbin and Jagdeo ratified this arrangement that no licenses will be issued until the Broadcast Authority is formed.
Vieira said that between 2001 and 2011, this provision was used by the government to deny anyone a TV or radio licence. He said that even existing stations were denied expansion since it would mean granting them additions to their licences.
Channel seven’s Rex Mc Kay and Mr. Enrico Woolford and numerous others had also applied for radio license but were not given.
Contrary to the understandings of both the dialogue and the communique every one of the licenses issued by Jagdeo was to his personal friends and supporters and to the People’s Progressive Party.
Vieira said that this was not among the recommendations of the 2001 bipartisan board, which was convened as a result of the dialogue, that board recommended that ownership should be balanced and should reflect the ethnic composition of the areas which they will serve.
Additionally, Jagdeo broke the law by not consulting with the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) or the Broadcasting Authority, both of which were not operational at the time he granted the contentious 11 licences.
The ACB was established on November15, 2001 as a semi-autonomous body, pursuant to regulations made under the Guyana Postal and Telegraph Act, Chapter 47:01.
It comprises a chairman and two members, nominated by the President, the Leader of the Opposition, and Private Sector. Its tenure should have extended until the establishment of a Broadcasting Authority.
The ACB by law is supposed to advise on the issuance, suspension and/or termination of television broadcasting station licences (including termination of unlicensed broadcasts); monitor the adherence to or breach of broadcast standards relating to content by licences, and to receive and investigate public opinion or complaints on broadcast standards
The ACB was also supposed to maintain a working relationship with such bodies as are established by the industry to enforce broadcast standards; advise on appropriate action in cases of violations of the conditions of the licence after due process of investigation and perform any other duties the responsible Minister may ask it to assume within the confines of these regulations and the Act.
Vieira said that the general understanding was that the Committee would advise on appropriate action in cases of violations of the conditions of the licence which is in fact the role usually performed by a Broadcasting Authority.
However, the ACB was dissolved by Justice James Bovell-Drakes in June of 2011 on a motion by the then leader of the opposition Robert Corbin. Jagdeo issued the licences in November long after the dissolution of the ACB and before a broadcast authority was formed.
As a result of the judge’s decision dissolving the ACB, there was no ACB in place to advise Jagdeo to grant the radio licences in October 2011, and the Broadcast Authority was not formed until 2012.
Vieira said that the committee concluded that since Jagdeo was required by law to be advised by that body as such, it can easily be construed that he broke the law again.
“They were illegally granted by a Minister, Jagdeo, responsible for Broadcasting, in contravention of our laws in the absence of an ACB which was the only entity that could have legally advised him to issue those licences and there was no Broadcast Authority.”
The Committee found that the radio licences were issued in violation of the law, the dialogue and the communiqué and cannot be allowed to stand.
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 owned by Robert Persaud’s wife, Kamini Persaud and his sister.
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.
They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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