Jan 17, 2016 News
Given the widely perceived biased coverage and “unhealthy content” of some of the stories reported by radio broadcasters during the May 2015 General and Regional Elections, the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) is pursuing a Code of Conduct for broadcasters.
This is according to reliable sources close to the officials on the GNBA. The source said that given the “toxic reporting” from certain broadcasters during that time, there is certainly a need for there to be a code of conduct to guard against this in the future. The source said that preparation of the document is already underway. The code will contain some strict penalties.
“Some of it caters for election time and the law gives us the authority to monitor for balanced reporting. So they can get warning letters from us if they report stories that are not substantiated. If they don’t follow the warning they can face legal corrective action from us.”
During the elections, former President Bharrat Jagdeo’s controversial approval of radio licenses to close friends and party members in 2011, came back to haunt the APNU+AFC.
The first report of the elections watchdog body, the Media Monitoring Unit (MMU) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), for the period of March 1 to March 31, 2015 was the first to document how this occurred.
Monitoring coverage of the radio stations revealed that they were overwhelmingly in favour of the Government and the ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
Four radio stations were monitored- NTN 89.1 FM owned by Anand Persaud; I’Radio 90.1 Love FM owned by the sister of Minister Robert Persaud; 93.1 Real FM owned by Maxwell Thom and the Government-owned NCN 102.5FM.
MMU did not explain, in its report, why it did not monitor Radio Guyana Inc. (RGI) 89.5/87.5 FM, a radio station owned by Dr Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, and accused of being heavily biased in favour of Government. However, the first three stations were the ones approved by Jagdeo.
According to the MMU report issued this week, NTN 89.1 radio news gave Government and the PPP/C more than 75 percent coverage with only a small portion going to the then Opposition A Partnership For National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC). Its general programmes were 100 percent positive for Government during the period March 1- March 31.
With regards to I’Radio 90.1FM, its general programming was 97 percent coverage for Government and PPP/C with three percent coverage, all negative, for the APNU+AFC.
That station, while its newscasts gave Government and the PPP/C some 70 percent coverage, it did allow some amount of positive for the then Opposition – 10 percent.
The talk shows/interviews were more positive to the then Opposition, giving them 39 percent positive coverage and 26 percent negative. Government and the PPP/C received 19 percent coverage.
The general programming of Thom’s 93.1 FM gave Government full coverage, with nothing for the Opposition.
I’Radio 90.1FM gave Government 60 percent positive coverage with the then Opposition getting the rest.
The state-owned 102.5 FM news saw Government and the PPP/C receiving 70 percentage of the coverage with APNU+AFC receiving 22 percent negative.
The station’s talk shows and interviews did not include the Opposition. Only 14 percent of the content was deemed negative to Government.
In terms of 102.5 FM general programmes, some 88 percent of them concentrated on Government issues with 12 percent considered negative coverage for the then Opposition.
The issue of new radio stations was an embarrassing one for the Donald Ramotar administration, after revelations that Jagdeo bypassed a standing agreement with the Opposition and unilaterally granted several radio and cable licences to not only his friends but also to close party members and even to the ruling PPP newspaper, The Mirror.
It was widely seen as part of a bigger plan by Jagdeo to gain control of the airwaves.
Several prominent media houses were ignored by Jagdeo, leading to condemnation locally and internationally, and to protests.
Among those granted approvals for radio licences were Telcor and Cultural Broadcasting Inc, the former owner of I’Radio 90.1 FM, the company closely linked to Minister Persaud.
Five frequencies were granted to Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, Jagdeo’s close buddy. He was also allowed to buy over a television Channel (28), from its former owner Tony Vieira under controversial circumstances.
The Mirror, owned by the PPP, was also granted five frequencies through applications from Dharamkumar Seeraj, a senior member of the ruling party.
Single frequencies were granted to Thom, singer Rudy Grant, Hits and Jams, and NTN, among others.
The approvals came two months after signing the Broadcasting Act in September 2011. It was not until months later that the regulatory Broadcasting Authority was appointed and even then, it was lined with government MPs, and other party officials.
The granting of licences has been roundly condemned by media associations.
Several media houses like HBTV, Kaieteur News, Stabroek News, RBS Channel 13, CNS Channel 6, MBC Channel 46, WRHM Channel 7, GWTV 2 and Capitol News, were among those that complained about being sidelined by Jagdeo.
The APNU+AFC had expressed alarm over the licences, saying that the stations will be used as propaganda weapons against them.
Since those approvals by Jagdeo, Government has not issued any other radio licence. The Broadcasting Authority is continuously saying it is considering new applications.
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