Aug 17, 2017 Letters
Please allow me to make a few observations derived after examining the scintillatingly incredulous doctrinal postulation entitled “The amendments to the Broadcast Law violate the constitution” Aug. 16. 2017, by Anil Nandlall. I will not trade legal arguments or constitutional misinterpretations because I believe these matters are best decided by the courts, a turf not unfamiliar to Mr. Nandlall; many hold the view that in such setting he is neither shy or incompetent. However, he did write that “More analysis will follow in another letter” since he is already committed this process, while he is at it I wish if he could analyze and bring further clarity to the following issues for members of the public:
1. In reference to the value of a license, the Nandlall Doctrine states, “Its value would depend, inter alia, upon the reach of the broadcast, its goodwill, the size of its viewership/listenership, etc.” My question is, when did the learned gentleman discovered this fact? Isn’t this a valid argument for the new Zoning requirements in the Bill which recalibrates fees based on geographic reach and size of available pool of viewers/listeners etc.? An interesting omission from the Doctrine is an explanation of why did his government find it necessary to charge a uniformed minimum fee if it is known that the value depends on these factors. Was it public mischief?
2. The Nandlall Doctrine holds forth that “when the Amendments come into force, by virtue of Clause 9, all existing licenses, though not yet expired, will be terminated, by operation of law.” Excluding the ones on Mars, Mr. Nandlall may want to provide for public scrutiny a list of all unexpired licenses within the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at the time the Amendments were passed in Parliament, that will be terminated solely on account of this law.
3. The Doctrine further asserts that “The fact that there is no guarantee that the licenses would be re-issued at all; or will be re-issued with the same spectrum reach and that even if it is reissued, new conditionalities would be attached, including new prescribed fees, only aggravate the violations of Article 146.” Is Mr. Nandlall saying that once enacted any law conferring licence to operate cannot be varied, new conditions cannot be appended and fees revised?
I’m not trained in law but from everyday life I observed that all manner of licensing fees, property taxes, rates and tariffs have been modified in every conceivable sector, what makes the Broadcasting sector so unique that it can’t be subject to fee adjustments or domain realignment?
Apart from the clarification I seek above I wish to make some clarifications of my own. Mr. Nandlall wrote, “The Prime Minister, for obvious reasons, did not address the issue of non-consultation. The truth is, he cannot. There simply was no consultation.” I wish to clarify that several forms of consultations were held with most of the major stakeholders in Broadcasting sector.
1. During my tenure as Chairman the Admin staff of GNBA I organized individual consultations with each and every known Broadcaster from all regions, they were given an opportunity to freely discuss a range of matters involving regulatory reforms.
2. All television Broadcasters were invited to a group consultation at the GNBA head office and held discussions with the entire Board, again matters relating regulatory to reforms were discussed.
3. Meetings and discussions were held with Ms. Carolyn Walcott, Head of Communications Department at UG, Dr. Paloma Mohamed (who has an active research on Media and Broadcasting codes and regulations), Robert Forrester, former CEO of the now defunct Guyana Media Proprietors Association (GMPA) and numerous other stakeholders. Further, in my capacity as Chairman I met with Mr. Anil Nandlall and Ms. Bibi Shadick who met with me in the capacity as representatives of Freedom Radio. At that meeting they were able to freely air their concerns on several matters including terms and conditions of licensing, fees adjustment, restructuring of broadcasting landscape and strengthening of regulations. A separate caucus was held with Ms. Shadick in her capacity as former Board Chair.
4. Further consultations were held with several persons from a random sample of those who either had matters in the courts concerning broadcasting or claimed they had applied for licenses and were unfairly and unjustly shut out by the arbitrary selection of former President Jagdeo; including the CEO of Stabroek News and Mr. Enrico Woolford
5. Consultations were also held with the Inter Religious Organisation of Guyana at the Arthur Chung CC where a range of matters were discussed including regulatory reforms.
6. And public views were garnered from various social media responses and the numerous letters to the editors going as far back as 2010. Members of the public frequently visited the GNBA to seek information and make suggestions for better regulation of the Broadcasting Sector.
All of the consultative engagements outlined above combined to play a major role in shaping the content of the 2017 Amendments. Mr. Nandlall may argue that consultations were not held to his satisfaction and perhaps another round of consultations should have been held before going to parliament. Though not perfect, the Amendments are a fair reflection of the views of the majority of stakeholders. The jury is still out on whether further consultations or any other specific format of engagement would have added further benefit to the process.
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