Jun 03, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe- Campbell
The Board of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has finally set in motion a plan that
will see all broadcasters having to reapply for licences to operate.
Even before the new Board of the Authority was appointed, the APNU+AFC government had said that it will make good on its promise to regulate the Broadcast industry and revoke all those radio licences that former President Bharrat Jagdeo had granted days before demitting office.
Today, the licences remain valid. GNBA said that it was caught between a rock and a hard place when it tried to maneuver ways and means to revoke the licences without legal implications.
The new GNBA board was appointed in September. Leonard Craig was named Chairman. In April, the GNBA held its first press conference. At that forum, strong statements were made to the effect that the Board intends to act forcefully in the best interest of Guyana.
The media was told that within two to three weeks it would have received information about the way forward with regards to revoking the radio licences. Nothing was heard.
However, yesterday Craig said that the Board has been working despite not announcing the strides made. He indicated that all the glorious plans previously announced by the Authority cannot be implemented unless the necessary regulations are in place.
Craig said that a few weeks ago, the Board wrote Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo informing him of the “critical” changes to be made in Broadcasting as the Board sees fit. These included proposed rate structures and mechanisms for zoning.
Craig said that the Prime Minister, finding no issues with the proposals, has since written to Attorney General, Basil Williams, communicating the need for a legal input.
Craig said that the Attorney General’s Chambers have since undertaken the task of crafting the regulations in legal language.
The Chairman indicated that he made contact with the Chamber earlier this week and was told that the first draft of the regulations is well underway. Craig said that the Attorney General Chambers communicated with him that the draft may be ready within a week.
When it is completed, the draft will be sent to the Authority. Craig said that once the Board is satisfied that what has been translated into legal language is an adequate reflection of the will of the Board, the AG’s Chambers will then make it final. The regulations will then be published in the Official Gazette.
When that process is completed, GNBA’s Board will then ask all Broadcasters to reapply for licences that will now conform to the new regulations. “That course will necessitate reapplication from all Broadcasters; they will all have to reapply to fit into the new format,” said Craig.
Craig said that on file applicants will be asked to update their applications to also confirm with the new format.
“All applications will be judged based on merit, taking everything into consideration”, said Craig.
The regulations will include mechanisms for the implementation of new commercial zoning system namely primary, secondary and tertiary zones with a special category for community stations.
Region Four is considered the Primary Zone. It includes Georgetown and environs and will attract a $1.2M fee, yearly. Berbice, Bartica and Essequibo are considered Secondary zones and will attract a $600,000 yearly fee. The Tertiary Zones will be Linden, Lethem and Mabaruma. Broadcasters operating in that zone will pay $300,000 while Community TV Stations will pay $150,000.
As for Radio licence fees, the GNBA has decided to retain the existing $ 2.5M for the Primary zone while operators in the Secondary Zone will have to pay $1.25M. Broadcasters in the Tertiary Zone will have to pay $625,000 and Community Radio Stations will pay $312,500.
Nevertheless, Craig said that the policy of 3.5% of gross income whichever is greater, will still stand.
The Chairman said that all operators who desire their signals extended to more than one Region will, on the approval of the Authority, be allowed to extend to additional zones but will be required to pay the annual fee applicable to the additional zone/s.
At its press conference, GNBA Board told the media that it has explicitly and unanimously decided that Jagdeo illegally distributed resources “belonging to the people of Guyana” when he granted radio licences to his friends and family in 2011.
“We know that something has to be done to correct this wrong.”
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