Nov 14, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
The Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has failed to deliver key promises made to the Guyanese people. These promises were made by the very government that appointed the Board. Guyanese had expected that, by now, the Board would have at least made moves to dismantle the operations of those who were favored by the PPP/C administration and were fortunate enough to be granted licenses by former President Bharrat Jagdeo days before he demitted office. This reality was highlighted in the recently concluded report on an inquiry conducted into the operations of the Board of GNBA. According to the report, GNBA Board Chairman, Leonard Craig was the stumbling block in the Board’s journey towards making things right in the broadcast industry, particularly with regards to the licences.
The Inquiry was conducted by Major General Joe Singh who worked along closely with the Legal Advisor from the Ministry of the Presidency, Geeta Chandan-Edmond.
The report, seen by Kaieteur News, has not yet been released to the public.
Singh stated that the Board was saddled with “legacy issues” from its inception which influenced its composition.
Singh said that the inheritance of the Board included problems with the Broadcasting Act which was “hastily” enacted with perceived arbitrary and inconsistent provisions. He noted that the modus operandi of the previous administration led to subjective decisions being made, “which included allegations on the award of frequencies and licenses.”
Singh recalled that this distribution was frowned upon by the then opposition parties which now form the government. He noted that those parties pledged to correct these inconsistencies.
According to Singh’s findings, the matter of the illegal radio licences was discussed at the Board meetings. However, it was suggested that while other members of the Board were in favor of dealing with the matter and correcting the wrongs, Craig was not in favor of such undertakings. Singh said, “The intransigence of the Chairman inhibited the work of the Board…the members worked assiduously to correct the perceived wrongs of the previous administration.”
Singh said that Director Anthony Vieira, “with his institutional memory”, and other directors “with their passionate commitment pioneered these objectives and initiatives.”
Indeed, Vieira had once told Kaieteur News that the Board found the granting of the licences illegal and will be moving to revoke same. However, Craig, the very day that that story was published, said that Vieira spoke “out of turn.”
Vieira spoke to Kaieteur News as the head of a sub-committee set up by the Board. That Committee was mandated to look at the very issue.
In his report, Major General Singh said that at the committee level of the Board many issues were discussed. He said that there were discussions on limiting the powers of the Minister in the Act. Singh reported that the members were also “resolute in their opinion that Broadcast frequency should not be issued for cable operators. Furthermore, the distribution and management of Broadcast frequencies should be the responsibility of the GNBA and not the NFMU.” Singh noted that “the achievements at the level of the committee were many and the Directors worked well.”
Singh said that in order to promulgate the work of the Board, Director Vic Insanally designed a 10 point plan with the objectives and action to be taken, which the Board agreed to, and this was submitted to Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo for consideration.
In this 10 point plan labelled “Outstanding matters” Insanally listed the need for a meeting with Minister of Public Telecommunications, Cathy Hughes and her Advisor, Enrico Woolford—on concerns with new the Telecoms Bill and issues with NFMU.
He also listed “ways to deal with the issue of illegal radio licence; Status of draft legislation for new licence fees and zones; discussions on proposals put forward for dealing with amounts owed by television licencees and the approach for 2017 licence; review of E-Network status, requests from unlicensed operations who wish to regularize and outstanding applications for national cable for Alphonso and any other.”
However, with all these plans to get things done, Singh said that the “Chairman was seen as having inhibited the initiatives designed to correct the perceived subjective decision made by the previous administration.”
Further, Singh said, “In the end the political constraints and prejudices resulted in the Chairman failing to aggressively pursue the mandate on behalf of the Board which consequently led to frustration among the directors, relating to the incompleteness of their work and the administration’s unfulfilled promises to the Guyanese people.”
Singh recommended the need for organizational reform at the GNBA. He said that this should include a reorientation towards a more collaborative approach to the implementation of the mandate. Singh further noted that the combination of certain factors “is indicative of the Directors having no confidence in the Chairman resulting in some adopting the position of not being willing to serve under his leadership.
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