Category: Protecting



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  



Continuous efforts are being made by the management of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA), to engage Broadcast Operators. Management officials of the GNBA met with Mr. Jacob Rambarran, owner of RBS Channel 13, on Wednesday last (Feb 15, 2017), at his broadcast station located in Republic Park, Georgetown.
This session was led by GNBA’s Chief Executive Officer; Dr. Prudence Lewis- Bhola, who outlined the purpose for GNBA’s visit and noted the state of the broadcast industry, with great confidence that the Board will be poised to regularize the sector when it reconvenes. To this end, the CEO gave Mr. Rambarran an opportunity to speak to matters relative to his station and challenges he may be facing as a broadcaster.
The major challenge expressed by Mr. Rambarran was the matter of the exorbitant broadcast licence fees. Mr. Rambarran lamented that at the Board’s last meeting with broadcasters, they promised a reduction in fees, but the GNBA continues to request 2.5 Million Dollars.

Dr. Lewis- Bhola took that opp????????????????????????????????????ortunity to bring clarity to the matter. She explained that the current Broadcasting Act of 2011 stands. Therefore, she posited, until the new regulations come to the rescue, and those regulations are gazetted, the current law applies. She further noted that other broadcasters are honoring their obligations under the existing Act; she also stated that the GNBA is obligated under the Broadcasting Act to call for fees in accordance with the amount stipulated ($2.5 M or 3.5 % of the previous year’s revenue, whichever is greater).

The CEO explained to Mr. Rambarran that a new Board will soon manage the affairs of the Broadcasting Authority; therefore these outreaches form part of a strategic plan to update the files of broadcasters, to duly sensitize the Board of the concerns of broadcasters and the state of the industry. Consequently, it was strongly advocated that RBS CH 13 brings itself in compliance with the Broadcasting Act of 2011, since the Board will be presented with the necessary intelligence, when making critical decisions that will impact both individual broadcasters and the broadcast sector as a whole.
The CEO remains passionate about these outreach sessions and intends to continue to reach out to broadcasters, since it is critical to understand the needs of the industry first, before decisions are made to bring transformation and development.