Aug 01, 2017 News
By Abena Rockcliffe- Campbell
The Broadcast (amendment) Bill 2017, which addresses all existing broadcasting licences,
has been laid in the National Assembly.
The Bill was tabled in the name of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo. Nagamootoo was one who had promised to reclaim the valuable resource belonging to the people of Guyana but which he said was given away.
Essentially, this move is a fulfillment of a campaign promise to the people of Guyana, he said.
After the Bill is passed in the National Assembly and assented to by President David Granger all broadcasters, radio and television alike, will have to reapply for licences under the new regulations and provisions stipulated in the Bill.
Section 9 (1) of the Bill states, “Every person carrying on a broadcasting service immediately before the commencement of this Act for which a licence had been previously issued shall apply within thirty days of the commencement of this Act for a licence in accordance with the provisions of the Principal Act as amended by this Act for the continuation of the broadcasting service.”
The piece of legislation has been long awaited. The Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has long been looking for a way to address the radio licences that were issued by former President Bharrat Jagdeo a short while before demitting Office in 2011. But the previous Board failed to get any real work done on this front due to internal discord.
In 2016, the then Board of the GNBA headed by Leonard Craig, said that it had explicitly and unanimously decided that former President Bharrat Jagdeo illegally distributed resources “belonging to the people of Guyana” when he granted radio licences to his friends and family in 2011.
On the grounds of such a consensus, the Board decided that it must and will make moves to make those licences null and void.
Craig said that the Board is cognizant that the issue regarding the licences issued by Jagdeo, shortly before demitting office and prior to the coming into force of the current Broadcasting Act No. 17 of 2011 has attracted the greatest interest relative to the Board’s function.
Craig pointed out that the licences have been arbitrarily issued to persons and entities with close ties to decision maker and without regard to prior existing applications.
Craig said that Jagdeo’s decision would have pre-empted the application of the Broadcasting Act which was already assented to but was awaiting a date to come into operation. He said that the operationalization of the Act was entirely within the authority of Jagdeo who held the portfolio of Minister of Information as provided for by Section 1 of the Broadcast Act.
Former GNBA Director Abiola Wong-Inniss has spoken about the intricacies surrounding the matter. She said that the Board was looking for a foolproof way to address the issue. Wong- Inniss reiterated that the radio spectrum belongs to the people of Guyana.
It is the belief of the Board that the distribution process used by Jagdeo, or the lack thereof, made the licences vulnerable and subjected to challenges, she added.
It was later announced that the GNBA found the formulation of new regulations and provisions to be the best way of addressing the issue. In that way everyone will have to reapply to come under the new umbrella.
Among the 11 persons and entities receiving permission to run radio stations back in 2011 are Dr. Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop, Jagdeo’s best friend; the Mirror Newspaper, which belongs to the former ruling party; and Telcor Cultural and Broadcasting Inc.
The three received five frequencies each giving them countrywide control of the radio airwaves.
Currently, PPP is operating one of its frequencies.
Former Minister of Natural Resources, Robert Persaud relinquished ownership of iRadio 90.1 Love FM. Persaud sold to Ansa McAl-owned Guardian Media Group.
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