Mar 14, 2016 News
– “PM Nagamootoo must say where he is putting new applicants,” – Dr. David Hinds
“Since May 2015 they (Govt.) cannot point to any significant action beyond a few firings. While the government may be trying to downplay charges of witch-hunting it is in the process of opening itself to charges of weakness and collusion with the past. Once that characterization sticks, it is hard to remove.”
By: Kiana Wilburg
Signals from Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo that he may issue new broadcasting licenses instead of rescinding those illegally granted under the Jagdeo regime are not being well received by several officials within the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) and other critics outside of the entity.
The officials who spoke with Kaieteur News yesterday said that Nagamootoo would be making a big political mistake were he to follow through with such an approach.
They made it clear that the system has to be regularized. Towards this end, the officials emphasized that the illegalities in the Broadcasting sector, one of which includes the unlawful granting of radio and cable licenses by Former President Bharat Jagdeo to his friends and “favourites”, must be addressed.
Significantly, Kaieteur News was also made aware by several officials within GNBA that all the prime spots for television channel frequencies, as well as cable are all gone because of the PPP’s ad hoc scheme.
They noted that while some space is still available in the radio spectrum for new applicants, some major spots are already taken up.
Considering this, some officials within GNBA and even critics outside of the entity are questioning Nagamootoo’s reasoning for favouring the award of new licenses without addressing expeditiously, those illegally granted.
On several occasions, the Chairman of the GNBA board, Leonard Craig has been questioned on this state of affairs. Before Nagamootoo’s utterances to the media, Craig had failed to give any clear answer on the revocation of unlawful licenses. He would only say that the Board will host a press conference with the media. He made this promise last year and this year and it is yet to be fulfilled.
Last night, Craig told this newspaper that the board has made no decision to rescind the licenses but noted that legal advice suggests that it is better if the board does not. The Chairman also declined to reveal who the “legal minds are,” except to say that they are “well respected.”
Asked if the board is inclined to follow the legal advice given, he responded, “The PM (Prime Minister) seems inclined. We work for him.”
With regard to the long awaited press conference, Craig said that the Board has a Public Relations Officer who will be handling that matter.
Speaking with this publication yesterday, University Professor, Dr. David Hinds said that his political view is that the licenses should be rescinded.
“I base my conclusion on the grounds that they were not fairly awarded. I have read the opinion of the legal luminary, Mr. Brynmore Pollard and think that they are legally sound. He makes the case for possible compensation for those who will be affected by a possible termination of the licenses. But such an argument ignores the case of those who were originally denied licenses.”
The University Professor said that the arbitrary manner, in which the licenses were granted by Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, represents a grave injustice to those who were arbitrarily denied licenses at the time.
Given the nature of Guyana’s politics and the identities of those granted and those denied, Dr. Hinds said that one can see a clear case of partisan political motivation.
“If one were to follow Mr. Pollard’s logic, should those who were denied licenses sue the State for denying them equality before the law? The Prime Minister apparently is trying to correct this injustice by granting more licenses, presumably to include those who were denied by Mr. Jagdeo.”
“But it’s been almost five years since they were denied. Those who were granted licenses have had an advantage. During that time they have developed a monopoly in the industry because of little competition and then the issue of prime spots on the frequency. Have these prime spots been given away already? If so, then that creates another problem that cannot be corrected by simply granting more licenses. Nagamootoo must also say where he is putting new applicants if such a situation exists.”
The University Professor stated that it is because of that inherent unfairness that he favors termination of the licenses and for the process to be started on a clean slate.
“I have already commented on the political optics for the government. They continue to go soft on burning issues that relate to over-reach by the previous government.”
He emphasized that these issues fired up Government’s supporters to go to the polls.
“But since May 2015 they cannot point to any significant action beyond a few firings. While the government may be trying to downplay charges of witch-hunting it is in the process of opening itself to charges of weakness and collusion with the past. Once that characterization sticks, it is hard to remove. And worse of all it breeds cynicism among your supporters who may eventually opt out of the process again.”
He cautioned that there is definitely need for balancing caution with forthrightness.
Jagdeo, leaving 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.
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.
Former President Ramotar had promised to examine the issue but three years after entering office, there was no word from him.
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