Sep 22, 2016 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Head of the Guyana National Broadcasting Association (GNBA), Leonard Craig, will be launching an
investigation into allegations that two of his board members may have been involved in corrupt practices.
The statement from Craig comes on the heels of a report by this newspaper on Wednesday.
The said publication made reference to a broadcaster in Essequibo who alleged that two GNBA Board members tried to bully him into selling his operation to a prominent businessman recommended by the two GNBA members.
Craig recalled that at a statutory meeting on June 30, last, the GNBA Board discussed the issue of regularizing all cable Broadcasters. He said that it was agreed to have all broadcasters take the necessary steps to become fully compliant with the existing legal framework.
Craig said it was agreed that one necessary step for full compliance is for all Cable Broadcasters to enter into a settlement agreement with GNBA to pay all required fees with respect to the period during which they were un-regularized.
The GNBA Head said it was agreed that the Chairman of the Legal, Fees and Other Matters Committee would lead a meeting with un-regularized Cable Broadcasters on the Essequibo Coast, to arrive at a negotiated settlement only with respect to payment of fees up to the end of 2016.
He said that these operators are expected to (re)apply for licences to operate in 2017 and beyond. Craig stressed in this regard that these Cable Operators have repeatedly requested regularized status for a number of years.
Following the rounds of meetings, Craig said that one Cable Broadcaster, Mr. Kenwin Charles, of Northwest TV Inc. asked to meet with him to highlight several concerns.
At that meeting, Craig said that Charles made a complaint essentially accusing Anthony Vieira and Victor Insanally of trying to force him out of doing business on the Essequibo Coast where he had made significant capital investments.
Kaieteur News understands that Charles also lodged a complaint with Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo.
Craig said that he gave the broadcaster the assurance that his matter will be given urgent consideration and that it will be addressed at the level of the Board as he makes a written complaint.
The GNBA Head made the point that if the allegations can be substantiated it will constitute a major blow on the integrity of those members concerned. He also told Kaieteur News last night that under no circumstance will he allow any form of corruption to infect the entity.
He promised to carry out a complete investigation of the facts relating to matters raised by Charles. He said that an official statement on his investigation will be released in the coming days.
In the meantime, one of the accused, Anthony Vieira, is holding out that the broadcaster is telling nothing but lies.
In fact, he expressed great disappointment that the GNBA Chairman would seek to send out a statement on the matter without hearing his side of the matter and without the approval of the Board.
Vieira said, “Craig is completely out of line with the statement and is once again demonstrating his incompetence when it comes to running the board. All of the Board members agreed that no statement would be sent out by any member of the Board unless it receives unanimous approval.”
The Board Member added, “We made that decision because we do not want a situation where one person is saying A and another is saying B. I really thought Craig understood that.
Also, Craig is operating as though he is an Executive Chairman even though the Prime Minister went to great lengths to explain to his face that he is not. The Prime Minister also went to great lengths to explain to him what his role is. He is just ordinary, nothing but an ordinary member. It is unfortunate that he would still act in this manner.”
As for the allegations, Vieira made it clear that Charles is only “making things bad for himself.”
The GNBA regulator said that Charles is not only operating without a licence but is using the wrong frequency to transmit his services.
Vieira said, “This fella Charles never had a licence to transmit cable services to paying subscribers. Charles came to us and he said that he has been doing this for about four or five years. He confessed that he has never paid fees and continued to use the frequency. We told him that he was using the wrong frequency for his operations and that we cannot allow him to continue like that.”
Vieira said that there is also the allegation that Charles’s operation is interfering with operations in Georgetown.
He explained that he subsequently made a suggestion to Charles in the presence of Insanally and the acting CEO of GNBA, Violet Boyal.
Vieira said, “I told him there is no actual operator at Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary and he should consider going there because he is going to have a far bigger audience and a better playing field.
“Charles told me it would be too expensive to move there. I sat there looking at this man in disbelief. He is breaking the law and I must continue to allow him to do that.”
The GNBA Board Member said that even if the authority were to give the broadcaster a licence, there is another cable operator in the same vicinity with Charles.
In Vieira’s view, the two would end up competing with each other for a small pool of subscribers. He believes that this would only lead to both providing poor services.
He said, “When there are two cable persons operating in the same area they end up providing poor services and would end up being placed in a position where they would have to buy the rights for the area…”
The GNBA Board Member insists that he is not corrupt. He maintained that his behaviour was above board and that Charles is involved in public mischief. He will be seeking the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack in this regard.
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