Category: News

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INTEREST IN THE ACQUISITION OF A BROADCAST LICENCE

The Authority’s records indicate pending applications for the acquisition of a broadcast licence.  The GNBA hereby solicits an acknowledgment of continued interest in acquiring said licence, from those applicants who have not recently communicated with the Authority. GNBA continues its efforts to keep broadcasters fully compliant, increasingly with the passage of the new Broadcast Amendment Act 2017.

GNBA takes this opportunity to urge  pending applicants to become acquainted with the new Broadcast Amendment Act (2017), since the application process is guided by the new Amendments.

GNBA looks forward to a prompt response, relative to your interest.  

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CONTACT US ON TELEPHONE NO. 223-5007/231-7367/231-7366/231-2488 

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NOTICE TO ALL CABLE, RADIO AND TELEVISION OPERATORS

The Guyana National Broadcasting Authority hereby invites all cable, radio and television broadcasters to settle all fees due and payable to the Authority. Please note importantly, in order to be eligible for the issuance of a broadcast licence, overall compliance is required.

Payments can be made at GNBA’s 18 Lamaha Street, Queenstown, Georgetown location, situated two buildings west of Peter Rose Street, Queenstown, Georgetown.

Chief Executive Officer – (CEO)

Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA)

For further information contact our Public Relations Officer on telephone # 231-2488/231-7367

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GUIDELINES FOR BROADCASTING

PLEASE SEE LINK BELOW FOR DRAFT GUIDELINES FOR BROADCASTING

GUIDELINES FOR BROADCASTING – FINAL

VISITORS ARE KINDLY ASKED TO NOTE THAT, WITH THE RECENT PASSAGE OF THE TOBACCO BILL NO. 5 OF 2017, THE TOBACCO ACT NOW SUPERCEDES WHAT IS PRESENTLY IN THE GUIDELINES RELATING TO THIS MATTER.  THE GUIDELINES ARE BEING UPDATED TO REFLECT THIS DEVELOPMENT. 

The GNBA welcomes your feedback, relative to these Guidelines. 

Contact information: 

Email: info@gnba.gov.gy 

Telephone No. 231-7367 /231-7366 /223-5007/231-2488 

GNBA looks forward to hearing from you!

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SEVEN (7) DAYS TO COMPLY- CHAIRMAN OF THE GUYANA NATIONAL BROADCASTING AUTHORITY

 

Chairman of the GNBA, Leslie Sobers

…broadcasters get  one week to re-apply for licences

BROADCASTERS are being asked to re-apply to the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) for new licences within 30 days of the enactment of the Broadcast (Amendment) Act 2017.

On Saturday, a statement issued by GNBA’s chair Leslie Sobers said that in light of President David Granger assenting to the legislation on September 7, it is important that those who have not yet applied to the GNBA for new licences do so by October 6.

“All those who had an application pending with the GNBA for a licence before September 7, 2017, also need to visit the Authority to amend their pending applications, or if need be, re-apply in accordance with the Amended Broadcast Act 2017 by October 6, 2017,” Sobers said in the statement.

Additionally, the GNBA Chair disclosed that many existing broadcasters have already begun the application process and some of them have completed those procedures with the GNBA as stipulated in the Broadcast Act.

He assured that completed applications will be processed expeditiously as they are received by the Authority following the 30-day stipulation.
However, the GNBA chair warned broadcasters who are non-compliant with this provision by October 8, 2017, that the Broadcast (Amendment) Act 2017 prescribes a series of penalties for non-compliance.

“GNBA continues to be available to all broadcasters and those wishing to broadcast, on the re-application procedures and processes, and looks forward to working with a fully licensed and regulated broadcasting sector for the benefit of all Guyanese,” the statement said.
The Broadcast Amendment Bill was passed in the National Assembly early August and was in September assented to by President Granger. The legislation was first introduced by the then People’s Progressive Party (PPP) government in 2011.

In September, the Guyana Chronicle reported that local broadcasters had begun clearing their arrears with the GNBA with the aim of ensuring that they are compliant in preparation for possible licensing.
In August, this newspaper had reported that there was more than $140M outstanding in licensing fees for television, as well as cable and radio broadcasters, who were not in compliance as of December 31, 2016.

If those fees remain unpaid, broadcasters could find themselves off-air after the Broadcast Act takes effect.
Following a closed-door meeting in August, which was attended by Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, and the board of directors of the GNBA, the Guyana Chronicle was informed that only six television and cable operators were compliant as of December 31, 2016 from a total of 27.

A number of radio stations were in default at the time. It is unclear how many of these operators have paid up their fees to date.
Those desirous of additional information can contact the GNBA on telephone numbers 223-5007, 231-7366 and 231-7367.

Article by Guyana Chronicle 

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GNBA BACKS BROADCAST BILL

  

Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, flanked by GNBA CEO, Dr. Prudence Lewis-Bhola (right) and the Board Chairman, Leslie Sobers (left), along with other Directors of the Board, including PPP executive, Bibi Shadick (Photo by Delano Williams)

…PM says it corrects loopholes in principal act

THE Guyana Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has thrown its full support behind the Broadcast (Amendment) Bill, with its Chairman Attorney-at-law, Leslie Sobers assuring that the 60 minutes airtime, daily, for public service programmes was not unreasonable.

These sentiments were expressed when the Prime Minister, who has responsibility for Public Information, attended a special meeting of the Authority at their Lamaha Street office. The Prime Minister also reiterated that the 60 minutes airtime, daily, for public service programmes will not be limited to the government, emphasising that the Broadcast (Amendment) Bill, when enacted, will create an opportunity for “enterprising” individuals and organisations to produce air informative programmes that are in the public’s interest.

Opportunities
The Prime Minister explained that Public Service Announcements or programmes can be submitted to GNBA or a body created by GNBA to be aired by television and radio operators. “In other words you are not leaving it to the Government to create 60 minutes broadcasting content or 10 minutes or 5 minutes, you can open it to all enterprising people who are there,” Prime Minister Nagamootoo stated.

He suggested that a special fund be set up by GNBA to assist producers in the production of Public Service Programmes, noting that they should be required to apply in order to access the funds.

“Whether it is a programme they may wish to produce in a particular way in a particular format to deal with suicide prevention, to deal with the hazard of smoking, alcohol abuse,” he suggested. It was noted that the broadcasting landscape should be one built on Public Private Partnerships.

The Prime Minister’s meeting with GNBA on the Public Service Programmes comes at a time when the Broadcast (Amendment) Bill, is currently on the President David Granger’s desk awaiting his assent.
Prime Minister said the amendment addresses the loopholes that were in substantial Act, which states that a certain percentage of broadcast time shall be made available for public broadcasting. “So there was no cap, there was no cap to it. There was no limit to how much that certain percentage would constitute and we thought that any Law should be certain,” he stated.

Mr Nagamootoo further stated that Kit Nascimento, in the 1970s, had developed a concept called “Development Support Communication (DSC), which was later integrated into a programme at the University of Guyana to be taught as a subject [course]. “I found it very interesting that the post-Nascimento recommendations were incorporated in the 2011 Act,” he further stated.

Prime Minister Nagamootoo identified that there is a difference “between government information and government provided information and party propaganda”. He noted that “no station private or public” should be required or mandated to carry party political propaganda. He said the GNBA needs to assure the Guyanese people that its understanding of public broadcasting content is not synonymous with political party propaganda.

Unlicensed
Additionally, the Prime Minister told the board members that clarity is needed on the number of companies that have not paid their annual license fees since 2016, as this renders them unlicensed and vulnerable under the law. “I would like that at this meeting with you, whether or not the payment of fees would have meant that any action would have been taken in regards to the assigned frequencies; because there is a requirement under law that all persons, legal person that is licensed to operate must pay a fee. I need to be informed by this Authority what is the status of those entities that have not paid their fees and have been operating”, Prime Minister Nagamootoo said.

Also the amount licensed operators are required to pay was discussed. The Prime Minister said the previous regulation had stipulated a certain amount in the fee structure. He explained that there was an alternative that they either pay the base fee or 3.5 percent of Gross revenues. He asked to be advised on whether licensees had stated a profit or if they were declaring losses because, “it means that the computation of 3.5 percent would have to be defined, whether it was intended to be growth gross or net gross, because I heard in the National Assembly that if broadcasters were to go with the one-hour public service broadcasting they will suffer the loss of millions of dollars because their revenue is computed on a fix sum of $30,000 per hour”, he pointed out.

The Prime Minister urged board members to earnestly pursue the matter to ascertain the actual amount operators were earning when they do not disclose gross earnings; since this means the Authority is being cheated out of revenues it is entitled to under the law.

Reasonable recommendation
Chairman of the GNBA, Attorney-at-law, Leslie Sobers, also used the opportunity to assure the Prime Minister that the 60 minutes airtime, daily, for public service programmes was not unreasonable.

“I want to assure you PM that our 60 minutes advice is not unreasonable. In Barbados their legislation dictates one second for every broadcast minute to be allocated to PSAs, and when you accumulate it, it works out to about two hours per day. In Trinidad and Tobago, their authority asks for 14 hours per week…on average that amounts to two hours per day as well,” Sobers pointed out.

He emphasized that GNBA is not unreasonable in its request. Board Director, Dr. Rovin Deodat, echoed similar sentiments as the Prime Minister, noting that it is not just the Government that will have the opportunity to broadcast PSAs.

President David Granger weighing in on the subject on Wednesday, asked critics of the bill to be more aware of the peculiar nature of Guyana and the need to ensure that all communities have access to information. He said the Bill does not prevent any media outlet from fulfilling its constitutional obligations and the government has an obligation to ensure, via the media, that the entire country is aware of what is going on.

Acknowledging that there are some aspects of the Bill that have caused concern, the Head of State told media operatives Wednesday at State House that a lot of thought went into crafting the bill. He noted that Cabinet’s support of the Bill was the reason why government went to Parliament. “Guyana is a very thinly populated country and the population density is about a few persons per square kilometer and most of the media houses are concentrated on the coastland and in the city of Georgetown, so there are huge areas of our country without media coverage,” President Granger explained.

“We need to ensure that we walk on two legs and the private media have my support and I will always support freedom of communication, but we have an obligation to ensure that all corners of the country receive public information about what is taking place in terms of public health, public infrastructure, and public security.”

He said if the population is unaware of what is happening in certain sections of Guyana because the media is concentrated in Georgetown; there will be a deficit in the flow of information.

Article by Guyana Chronicle 

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19 BROADCASTERS STILL TO PAY LICENSING FEES

…GNBA says arrears in excess of $140M

WITH more than $140M outstanding in licensing fees, television, cable and radio broadcasters who are not in compliance as of December 31, 2016, can find themselves off air if they fail to make the necessary payments after the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill takes effect.

GNBA Chairman of the Board of Directors, Leslie Sobers (Delano Williams Photo)

Minutes after a closed-door meeting with Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, and the Board of Directors of the Guyana National Broadcasting Agency (GNBA), on Wednesday, GNBA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Prudence Lewis-Bhola, told the Guyana Chronicle that only six television and cable operators are compliant as of December 31, 2016 from a total of 27. A number of radio stations are also in default.

Dr. Lewis-Bhola explained that there are 19 television operators, eight cable operators and 11 radio stations that are being monitored and licensed by the GNBA – the majority of which are in default. “We wouldn’t name (them) but just six are compliant, with respect to payments and other documentations required for a licence,” she posited.
The CEO noted too that GNBA in recent times has written the operators on numerous occasions with the hope that they would have paid their outstanding fees. “We had written to broadcasters asking them to bring themselves as of December 31, 2016 in compliance, in anticipation of the board sitting and reconvene and reconstituted,” the CEO further posited.

GNBA’s CEO, Dr. Prudence Lewis-Bhola

To date, the call remains the same, she said.
Chairman of the GNBA Board of Directors, Leslie Sobers, who had also participated in the meeting with the Prime Minister, told this newspaper that collectively, the television and radio broadcasters who are in default, have in excess of $100M outstanding in licensing fees, while the radio operators have approximately $40M outstanding. According to him, these fees date back to 2014 and as recent as 2016.

Television and radio broadcasters will be mandated to re-apply for their licences within 30 days of the commencement of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Act, but failure to clear outstanding debts could result in GNBA rejecting their application.
Sobers said, however, that the Broadcasting Authority stands ready to work with all broadcasters to make them compliant within a reasonable time frame.

“The Law states 30 days but we are prepared to work with them. You see over the last few years, licences were not issued and I am not sure whether it is entirely the fault of broadcasters or somewhere along the line they were led to believe that there is no need for them to come forward and pay, and for whatever the reason, we are simply saying to them, ‘pay up now, bring yourself up-to-date as of 2016’,” Sobers stated.

He made it clear that once the outstanding fees are paid, and all requirements are met, television, radio and cable operators will be relicensed. He noted that the authority at the level of the board, is considering issuing licence for a period of two to three years but applicants must pay up.

Continued violation of the law, however, can result in television, cable and radio operators being stripped of their rights to broadcast. “We will put the law in motion, call on them to stop broadcasting and if they fail to do that, we will ask the NFMU to pull the frequency, and if for some reason they are still airing on that frequency, then we will have to do what I call ‘boots on the ground‘ and pay them a visit,” the Chairman warned.
The issue of television, radio and cable operators failing to effect the necessary payments was among issues raised by Prime Minister Nagamootoo, when he met with those sitting at the helm of GNBA.

“I am told that up to last year, quite a number of operators–TV and Radio–have rendered themselves unlicensed, because they had not paid their licence fees,” the Prime Minister said while seeking clarity on the situation. It was then that the Prime Minister was informed that just about six operators are ready to be relicensed, based on the fact that they cleared their arrears and provided the necessary documents.

According to the Broadcast (Amendment) Bill, which is waiting to be assented to by President David Granger, failure to apply for the licence within the specified timeframe will result in the broadcasting service coming to an immediate halt. The same will be for those applicants whose applications were rejected.

“A person who…continues to carry on a broadcasting service after the expiry of the time specified, without applying for a licence or where he has applied for a licence within the time specified but his/her application for a licence has been rejected, commits an offence,” the Broadcast (Amendment) Bill states.

Defaulters would be fined $1M and imprisoned for one year. The proposed legislation calls for the seizure of equipment relative to the television and radio broadcasters. “All machinery and equipment used, or which can be used, for broadcasting and owned by or in the possession of, the person concerned is liable to be forfeited; but property not owned by such person shall not be forfeited unless the court is satisfied that the owner of the property knew or ought to have, with reasonable diligence, known that the person convicted had no licence to carry on broadcasting service,” the Bill states.

Reduced fees
Compliant operators will, however, benefit from reduced fees in the case of television and cable operators, based on their classification, be it commercial, noncommercial or community, and their zones – primary, secondary and tertiary.
In the Primary zone, the base fee has been set at $1.2M for TV and Cable Operators while Radio Operators will continue to pay $2.5M.

In the Secondary zone, the fee has been set at $600, 000 or 3.5% of the gross revenue of the preceding year, whichever is greater for TV and Cable Operators while Radio Operators will be $1.25M. In the Tertiary zone, the fee has been set at $300, 000 for TV and Cable providers and $625,000 for Radio Operators.
Radio and TV stations providing Community Broadcasting Services will only be charged a fee of $150, 000.

Article by Guyana Chronicle 

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PRIME MINISTER MOSES NAGAMOOTOO REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR GNBA

First Vice President and Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo met today, with board members of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) at the Authority’s office on Lamaha Street.

The Prime Minister welcomed the members to their new location and congratulated the organization on their work completed so far, and also for their recommendations that were made and inputted in the Broadcast Act.

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Board Members and Board Secretary of the GNBA 

The three Ps ‘Public Private Partnership’ were noted by the Prime Minister, as important in the execution of the functions and mandate of the GNBA.  “You have my support full as the Minister with responsibility for broadcasting. In your zoning activities in redefining the contours of broadcasting in Guyana”, he said.

The issue of broadcast time was discussed extensively.  Prime Minister Nagamootoo noted that the Authority recommended one minute per 60 minutes per day. He explained, “the Act had stated that a certain percentage of broadcast time shall be made available for public broadcasting which was called Development Support Broadcasting”.

Prime Minister said that the organization should not leave it to government to create 60- minute or 10minute content, but open it to all enterprising persons, “…maybe a fund could be developed by the GNBA … for producers of Public Content, Public Information Content and they should apply to access the funds to produce programmes whether is a programme they wish to produce in a particular way, in a particular format to deal with suicide prevention or smoking to alcohol consumption.”

Prime Minister Nagamootoo identified that there is a difference “between government information and government provided information and party propaganda”. He noted that “no station private or public” should be required or mandated to carry party political propaganda; the GNBA needs to assure the Guyanese people that its understands public broadcasting content is not synonymous with political party propaganda.

Whilst addressing key issues in the meeting, he told the board members that clarity is needed on the number of companies that have not submitted their annual license fee since 2016, as this renders them unlicensed and vulnerable under the law.

First Vice President and Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo with Chairman of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA), (first on right), Leslie Sobers, and staff of the GNBA

“I would like that at this meeting with you whether or not the payment of fees would have meant that any action would have been taken in regards to the assigned frequencies; because there is a requirement under law that all persons, legal person that is licensed to operate must pay a fee. I need to be informed by this Authority what is the status of those entities that have not paid their fees and have been operating”, Prime Minister Nagamootoo said.

Additionally, the amount licensed operators are required to pay was discussed.  The Prime Minister said the previous regulation had stipulated a certain amount in the fee structure. He explained that there was an alternative that they either pay the base fee or 3.5 percent of Gross revenues.

He asked to be advised on whether licensees had stated a profit or if they were declaring losses because, “it means that the computation of 3.5 percent would have to be defined whether it was intended to be growth gross or net gross, because I heard in the National Assembly that if Broadcasters were to go with the one-hour public service broadcasting they will suffer the loss of millions of dollars because their revenue is computed on a fix sum of $30,000 per hour”, he pointed out.

The Prime Minister urged board members to earnestly pursue the matter to ascertain the actual amount operators were earning when they do not disclose gross earnings; since this means the Authority is being cheated out of revenues it is entitled to under the law

The Prime Minister emphasized that e broadcasting was created to satisfy the needs and necessities of the community which it serves.

Aug 16, 2017  GovernmentMinistry of the PresidencyNewsOffice of the Prime Minister

psa

GUYANA PRESS ASSOCIATION HAS MISLED GUYANESE ( PSAs/PSP/PSB)

Dear Editor,
I am writing as I am very concerned that the Guyana Press Association (GPA) has not only misled the Guyanese citizenry but also their international counterparts – Reporters without Borders and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM). As reported in Kaieteur News, “The GPA strongly opposed the government seeking to redefine what constitutes ‘public service programmes’ as this redefinition is in direct contradiction and violation of the letter and spirit of the definition of public service broadcasting as is laid down by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) of which Guyana is a member.” The GPA then quoted what exactly ‘public broadcasting’ is according to UNESCO. (3 August, 2017).
I wish to point out however that public service programmes (PSPs) and public service broadcasting (PSB) is not one and the same and therefore there was no attempt to redefine the concepts. A Google search can easily highlight the distinction but I will provide much researched information. Public service programmes or public service announcements (PSAs), as they are also known, are utilized where governments wish to communicate with citizens through the media to achieve a particular public policy goal. It is not limited to governments; some countries allow non-governmental organisations to air certain PSAs free of charge.

PSAs are to be positive and from credible sources of information and are subject to advertising rules. More importantly, these announcements are not ‘free’ advertising meaning given their value, nature and the purpose of the information therein they are a valuable public service and are not just a means to promote a government’s or organisation’s image. So, essentially, PSPs or PSAs are a tool to transmit information to the public. The legal basis for them is that broadcasters must serve “the public interest”.
It is necessary to point out the factors which led to the development of public service broadcasting otherwise doing what the GPA has done, quoting from the UNESCO website, without more, is likely to cause confusion or mislead. There are different models of PSB but the concept developed due to the inherent weaknesses of the two dominant broadcasting systems—the state-controlled broadcasting model and the profit-oriented commercial model. It was found that the public interest in broadcasting could not be served by the interests of private entrepreneurs primarily looking for profit neither the State because of people’s suspicion.

The public-service model, therefore, it can be argued, arose from the mistrust of both systems to fulfill certain broadcasting goals of informing, educating and entertaining. So simply put, PSB is a broadcasting system essentially by the people for the people and an alternative to the profit oriented commercial broadcasting system and the state-controlled broadcasting system. In fact, many countries use it along with community radio to widen the broadcast landscape and to bring balance. Public service broadcasting involves carrying PSAs.
Given the foregoing, it is clear that the GPAs lack of understanding of the difference between these two concepts negates most, if not all, of their bases for opposing the amendments to the Broadcasting Act, 2011. To argue that the airing of PSAs would “disrupt and violate contractual obligations that stations will have with advertisers and program sponsors” is not only lopsided but emphasizes the lack of understanding of broadcasting, broadcasters obligation to the public and to broadcast in the public interest. The GPA has deliberately knowing or unknowingly sided with a model of broadcasting which is outdated and lacks balance and is an affront to the rights of the public – the profit oriented commercial broadcast system.
It would be remiss of me not to site the Broadcasting Act which provides at section 18(2) that among the functions of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) is to “require licensees to carry information on any programmes issued by the Civil Defence Commission, the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Fire Service and or health services, and certain other programmes as public information deemed appropriate and necessary in terms of national security, emergency and disaster as a public service at no cost.” The power to require the PSAs is in the existing legislation of 2011 and therefore the amendment is an attempt to bring clarity by clearly setting certain obligations for PSAs.

This, to my mind, is a good way to determine whether licensees are compliant and to determine whether the GNBA is exceeding its power by requiring more than is established by law and without valid reasons. It seems to me to be an attempt to bring some much-needed balance and accountability to our broadcasting landscape by ensuring that licensees honour their obligations and the conditions of their licence and that the GNBA does not exceed its power. In terms of balance, the Broadcasting Act is also very clear at section 2 where it provides that this Act shall provide, among other things, balanced information for the Guyanese public.
Therefore, any strong opposition the GPA has should have been raised prior to the enactment of the Broadcasting Act in 2011and that opposition should have at least recognized that the power granted to the GNBA under section 18 was vague and needed to clarified otherwise it can lead to confusion and abuse by both the GNBA and licensees. Contrary to the GPAs shuddering thought that it hoped that Prime Minister Nagamootoo did not provide the Cabinet with bad advice on what constitutes PSPs, it is the GPA representatives who do not understand the concept.

In closing, therefore, the comments and calls by Reporters without Borders and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) are unfounded because of their apparent reliance on the information provided by the GPA. I submit that, the amendments now under public and international scrutiny all seem to be based on existing provisions in the Broadcasting Act, 2011, so the uproars that are now taking place were due back then. As an independent body it is expected that the GPA would indeed be independent, conduct its own research and not rely on the noises of the Opposition which seems to have vested interests in some broadcasting licenses.
Concerned Guyanese

Featured in the Kaieteur Newspaper- August 13, 2017  

PM-Nagamootoo

PRIME MINISTER SEEKS TO ALLEVIATE CONCERNS ABOUT BROADCAST AMENDMENT BILL

– Says it serves National Interest

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo has penned a missive that aims to educate the public about the content of the Broadcast Amendment Bill 2017. He said that much of the concerns expressed are misdirected. While there have been local and international calls for President David Granger to withhold his assent from the Bill, Nagamootoo said that this will not happen. He noted that the President’s assent “cannot be delayed by vested and parochial political interests, and by misconceived or misinformed arguments.”  The Prime Minister said that the amendments are required, with “some urgency, in the public interest.”

 

In some quarters, there has been a gross misunderstanding and, in a few instances, deliberate misrepresentation of the recent amendments to the Broadcasting Act. This Act was signed into law on September 27, 2011 by then President Jagdeo.

It is apparent that those who have expressed some sort of opposition to the amendments did not examine carefully the provisions of the 2011 Act, which the amendments seek to give effect, as authorized by the said Act. In most cases, the amendments give clarity to certain Sections and also, add certainty to them.

These amendments were recommended by the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority GNBA, and tabled by me in the National Assembly as an AMENDMENT Bill, after statutory consultation with the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU), as required by the 2011 Act.

I will explore the changes made by the amendments, starting with the interpretation assigned to certain terms in the Act.

 

  1. DEFINITION

In the ACT “broadcasting service” means a service providing broadcasting.

The AMENDMENT gives clarity to this definition and amplifies that “broadcasting service” means a service providing broadcasting and includes – (i) a television broadcasting service; and (ii) a radio (sound) broadcasting service”.

The ACT has no definition for “public service broadcasting” though it makes provision for broadcasters to provide “certain percentage” of time for such broadcasting.

 

The AMENDMENT fills the gap, defining “public service broadcasting” as the broadcast of a programme produced for the purpose of informing and educating the public, and promoting policies and activities of the Government that benefit the public as a whole”.

 

  1. PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCAST

The ACT gives the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA), in Section 18 (2), powers to –

(i) require licensees to carry information on any programmes issued by the Civil Defence Commission, the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Fire Service and or health services, and certain other programmes as public information deemed appropriate and necessary in terms of national security, emergency and disaster as a public service AT NO COST;”

(k) “require licensees to carry A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE of public service broadcast or development support broadcast as public information deems (sic) appropriate as a public service AT NO COST.”

“Development support broadcast” has long been recognized as relating to Government development programmes.

 

  1. CERTAIN PERCENTAGE – is now limited

That vague “certain percentage” in the original Act, EXCLUDES “information issued by the Civil Defense Commission, the Guyana Police Force” etc., and therefore, could have been interpreted as requiring additional free broadcast time to the “certain percentage” to which I have already alluded..

The AMENDMENT seeks to place a maximum cap on the “certain percentage” which will now include notices of the Civil Defence Commission, Police Force, etc., and limits it to between one minute and sixty minutes daily.

The Amendment says in Section 8. (1) Every broadcasting agency shall broadcast public service programmes in the following manner-

(a) for a total of up to sixty minutes per day;

(b) between 6:00 hrs and 22:00 hrs; and

(c) free of cost.

The sixty minutes referred to shall INCLUDE time allotted for any –

(a) address to the Nation by the President;

(b) emergency notice or disaster warning issued by the Civil Defence Commission, the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Fire Service, the Minister of Public Health and the Government generally by any agency duly authorized.

 

  1. CLASSES OF LICENCE– now clearly defined

 

The ACT says in Section 17 (1): The Authority shall be responsible for the regulation, supervision and development of national broadcasting, including PRIVATE, PUBLIC and COMMUNITY broadcasting. And in Section 18, it adds: The Authority shall establish classes of licences.

The AMENDMENT provides for these “classes of licences” and creates a structure for their proper operation, as required by the Act.

It says in Section 21A that a television broadcasting service or a radio broadcasting service shall be of the following classes:-

  • Commercial, where 80% of revenue comes from advertisement and sale of airtime;
  • Non-commercial, where funding comes mainly from donors; and
  • Community, where a Board elected by a geographic area runs the station for the community and in its interest.

To accommodate these classes of operators, the AMENDMENT allows for zones to be created – primary, secondary and tertiary zones in various geographic locations to ensure that the entire country is covered by broadcasting from one medium or the other.

The GNBA is vested with powers to do these things and much more, as the ACT allows it to amend any condition of a licence on application of the licensee or on the Authority’s own motion; issue renewals of licences; suspend or revoke any licence; require licensees to carry public information broadcast as public service at no cost, etc.

 

  1. FEES– significantly reduced

Under a Schedule of the existing 2011 Act, all operators were required to pay a flat fee of $2,500,000 for a broadcasting licence, whether the agency has nationwide reach or is confined to a specified and limited location. The imposition by the former Government of an across-the-board $2.5 million fee, resulted in most licensees not paying the fees, and they have voluntarily become unlicensed, some since 2012. Reports indicate that broadcasters owe an estimated $125 million to the GNBA; and only eight (8) of them are in conformity with licensing requirements under law.

But the AMENDMENT relieves operators from what I had described in the National Assembly as “the kleptocratic obsession” of the former government to levy heavy fees. The Amendment substitutes a new Table of Fees that, except for a license to operate radio in the primary (populated) zone, significantly reduces the fees.

The new Fee for television in the primary zone is slashed to $1,200,000. The licence fees for secondary and tertiary zones are $600,000 and $300,000 respectively. These fees are also applicable to cable. A community radio licence fee is only $150,000.

 

  1. TRANSFER OF LICENCE

The ACT contains in Section 19 the broadcasting policy for Guyana that ensures that Broadcasting services are effectively owned and controlled by –

  • (i) Guyanese nationals;
  • (ii) Guyanese nationals and CARICOM nationals: Provided that in the case of CARICOM nationals their ownership and control shall be subject to there being RECIPROCAL PROVISIONS governing broadcasting by the Member State of which the CARICOM national is a citizen..”

We know of cases where broadcasting licences have been ostensibly transferred to non-Guyanese nationals. In cases where such licensees had sold or transferred their broadcasting rights and interests, there would be need to review such transfers in keeping with requirements as regards (a) zoning and (b) status of transferees under the 2011 Act., Under the 2011 Act, a licence could not be transferred to any other person without the written consent of the GNBA.

 

  1. TERROR THREATS

The broadcasting policy in the ACT ensures compliance by broadcasters with the Constitution and laws of Guyana and requires them not to incite violence, ethnic, religious or cultural hostility. It provides for review of broadcasting rules that regulate content that violates the Constitution, stimulates sexual violence and abuses women’s and children’s rights etc.

The AMENDMENT amplifies this section, in keeping with new developments, and in Section 39B provides that a broadcasting agency shall not broadcast advertisements or programmes which contain HATE SPEECH, RACIAL INCITEMENT or TERROR THREATS.

This cannot be an interference with free speech! This is in keeping with the Guyana Constitution which, in Article 146 (3), states that “Freedom of expression does not relate to hate speech or other expressions, capable of exciting hostility”.

It is my strong and confident submission that freedom of the press or of expression is not violated where any law provides for an action to be taken in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for regulating broadcasting or television services.

 

  1. REQUIREMENT TO RE-APPLY

Depending on the class of service or the zone for which the licence is granted, all broadcasters, including the State radio and television, have to fill out the new application forms that are part of the Broadcasting Regulations (the Amendment).

This was a requirement in 2011 as the Act stipulates that all legitimate broadcasters must submit application for continuation of broadcasting within 30 days of the said Act coming into effect. A person who wanted to start broadcasting service had to apply for a licence under the new conditions in the Act.

The 2017 AMENDMENT Bill re-applies this requirement for submission of application in keeping with the classes of licences, the zoning for operations and the adjusted fees for the different zones.

This is a practical measure, and logical within the context of the adjusted broadcasting landscape, which was done in full conformity with the existing Broadcasting law.

The Opposition-driven allegations that the amendments violate the Constitution, breach international treaties and conventions, “kill” freedom of the press and take away “proprietary interests” of broadcasters, are totally without merit, and form part of the partisan political propaganda against the need for modern legislative changes in Guyana.

The assent of His Excellency, President David Granger, to the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2017 cannot be delayed by vested and parochial political interests, and by misconceived or misinformed arguments. The amendments are required, with some urgency, in the public interest.

Article by Kaieteur News