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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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GNBA’S REPRESENTATIVES ATTENDED NFMU’S GIRLS IN ICT SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN LAUNCH

 The Girls in ICT Social Media Launch held on Friday last ( April 07), in the Conference Room of the National Library, was an event, among a series of events planned by the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) to celebrate Girls in ICT Day 2017.  This event was hosted by Officials of the NFMU.

Each of the officials presented specific aspects of the Social Media Launch and the work of the NFMU, relative to the celebration of Girls in ICT Day, 2017. Initially Ms. Shaneeza Khan welcomed the Media and representatives from the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA). Additionally, she outlined the presentations to be delivered by each of her colleagues and introduced the Managing Director, Mr. Valmikki Singh.  Mr. Singh in his introductory statements, again welcomed the GNBA and members of the Media.

Subsequently, the Managing Director gave a history of the Girls in ICT, including NFMU’s participation in the development of girls in this particular field (ICT). Among his utterances he noted the fact the Girls in ICT day is celebrated the fourth Thursday in April of every year, including the NFMU’s encouragement of careers in the field of ICT. Mr. Singh also noted NFMU’s affiliation with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

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Following his brief presentation, Ms. Keren Boyal (Executive Assistant) was introduced to outline the activities planned by the NFMU for the month. In so doing, Ms. Boyal noted that one of the major events will be the upcoming Symposium on the 27th of April 2017. This event, she explained, will see the participation of 300 girls from various schools across Guyana. The slogan for that event is: ‘TECH NEEDS GIRLS’

This activity she further noted will aim to convince girls that Technology indeed does need girls. The following event will be a ‘Tech Day Camp’, aimed at teaching girls about the world of Technology. Finally, she noted that a ‘Girls in ICT Mentorship Luncheon’ is also a part of the list of activities. Importantly, Ms. Boyal noted that the GNBA hosted the ICT Mentorship event in the year 2015. On that noted Ms. Melissa Layne, Spectrum Engineer of the NFMU was introduced to deliver the final presentation.

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Ms. Melissa Layne took that opportunity to express her passion for this particular field (ICT), she further presented the new Facebook page developed for Girls in ICT. Moreover, she explained the reason for the launch and the activity involved for young women to post on their new Facebook page, explaining why Tech needs girls, tag it, upload it and encourage others to like the post. The three posts with the most likes, she explained, will win a prize each. This activity is aimed at promoting the Facebook page and the need for girls in the field of Information and Communication Technology.

 

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GNBA HELD SUCCESSFUL OUTREACH SESSION WITH RBS CHANNEL 13

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.

Telecom

GNBA PARTICIPATED IN THE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC TELECOMMUNICATIONS STAKEHOLDERS’ FORUM

The dedicated officials of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority participated in a consultative forum held last Wednesday(January 18) at the Ministry of Public Telecommunications, with stakeholders within the telecommunications and broadcasting industries. Discussions were focused on ways the industry can be improved, in light of a liberalized sector, with a new Telecommunications Agency to be developed within the first quarter of this year ( 2017).

Broadcasters present took that opportunity to ask important questions relative to the transition from Analog to Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). More specifically, with reference to the proposed deadline, year 2020 for the complete switch-off of Analogue Television Systems, questions were brought to the fore on this eventuality.

From all indications, it was noted from the Ministry’s advisors and consultant, with the agreement of stakeholders, that the proposed timeframe for the official transfer to Digital seems unrealistic given the unpreparedness of the industry. It was importantly noted that education is critical at this juncture, with regard to the implications of this transition, and what it means for broadcasters.

During this process of transition, suggestions were made that the GNBA and the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) should communicate on matters relating to broadcasters, in a collaborative effort to effectively address their concerns.

Dr. Prudence Lewis- Bhola (CEO) explained that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was developed by the GNBA to facilitate effective communication between the two entities. In addition, she asked probing questions and made important observations relative to the roadmap designed for the country’s transition to Digital. Her major concern was the matter of Broadcasters not being equipped with the necessary infrastructure to facilitate this transition. She noted, at this point, it is prudent for stakeholders to be sensitized of the requirements.