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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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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 

GNBA looks forward to hearing from you! 

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GNBA CONTINUES OUTREACH SESSIONS – HBTV CHANNEL 09

The Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA), in her quest to meet with Broadcast Operators throughout Guyana, conducted a successful session with the management of HBTV Channel 09, on Thursday last, at the Station’s location in Mandela Avenue, Georgetown. This session was led by dedicated officials of the GNBA, with the prime objective to listen and understand the challenges of this particular broadcaster, with the intention to address expressed challenges at the Board level.

Dr. Prudence Lewis- Bhola in her introductory presentation to the management of HBTV CH 09, explained the current state of the GNBA’s Board, and expressed optimism that the subject Minister will soon reconstitute and reconvene the new Board. In addition, she further noted that draft regulations for the broadcast sector have been developed, and will see the reduction of broadcast licence fees, as announced by the previous Board at its last interactive session held with broadcasters.

Relative to the challenges of this Station, the management of HBTV Channel 09 expressed that the station wishes to extend its services to include radio.  This they noted, will make the station competitive and will allow HBTV CH 09 to contend with other stations that are offering both radio and television services. An application, they explained, has been made to the GNBA for a radio licence.

 

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Dr. Lewis- Bhola noted that she remains optimistic that the Board will address this matter when it reconvenes. In addition, the management of the station raised the matter of the payment of both Spectrum and Broadcast Licence fees and the struggle to do so; the broadcaster asked for this to be improved and requested some consideration in this regard.

GNBA’s management team noted the concerns expressed. Additionally, Dr. Lewis- Bhola explained that a Memorandum of Understanding was developed to govern GNBA’s affiliation with the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU), especially with regard to the communication of information to Broadcasters. The CEO explained the process of attaining a licence and the purpose of the NFMU, relative to the licensing process.

The management of HBTV CH 09 expressed delight to have had the opportunity this outreach created, where their concerns were addressed in the presence of GNBA’s vibrant, youthful and knowledgeable officials. GNBA’s CEO took that opportunity to commend HBTV CH 09 for the content broadcast on their television station, and expressed confidence that the station will continue to do well, especially given the new guidelines that will soon take effect. Moreover, the station was educated on areas for improvement, relative to good taste and decency of content broadcast.

The GNBA intends to continue such outreach sessions throughout 2017. This initiative is the brainchild of Dr. Prudence Lewis- Bhola, who feels it is imperative to first understand the challenges of broadcasters, in a concerted effort to address their expressed challenges, especially those intimately affecting the respective stations, all in an effort the develop the broadcast landscape in Guyana.

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.

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GNBA CONTINUES OUTREACH SESSIONS- COUNTRYSIDE BROADCASTING -BERBICE

The Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority led a delegation on their second trip to the ancient county of Berbice. The GNBA officials met with the proprietor of Countryside Broadcasting Inc. Channel 19, Mr. David Subnauth, in Springlands Berbice last Friday.This Broadcaster was given an opportunity to explain his challenges with regard to the state and development of his television station and suggested ways the GNBA can assist. One of the major challenges he expressed was the matter of exorbitant fees, the Broadcaster suggested that the GNBA can assist by reducing fees, as well, provide training opportunities for new broadcasters.

GNBA’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Prudence Lewis- Bhola brought clarity on aspects of the Broadcasting Act of 2011, with specific reference to the obligation of Broadcasters under the Act. However, the Broadcaster was assured that GNBA’s Board is working on Regulations that may bring relief to all Broadcasters in the near future.

Second from left: Dr. Prudence Lewis-Bhola -GNBA’s CEO. First from right: Mr. Nizam Samad -GNBA’s Accountant . Second from right: Mr. David Subnauth- Proprietor of Countryside Broadcasting. First from left: Ms. Rebecca Connelly- Confidential Secretary to the CEO- GNBA.

More specifically, reference was made to the proposed zoning system our current Board developed, with the goal of ensuring a level playing field among future and existing Broadcasters. GNBA’s Accountant was present on this outreach, and took that opportunity to highlight important financial information; relevant to the responsibilities of the Broadcaster and ways the GNBA can lend support.

The matter of broadcast content was raised by our CEO, it was explained, with reference to Section 19 of the Broadcasting Act of 2011, the standards and requirements that all broadcasters are expected to adhere to when disseminating content to the general public. The Broadcaster was duly sensitized of these standards and was encouraged to develop more local and/or indigenous content for broadcast.

This outreach initiative is expected to continue in the upcoming year. It is the vision and passion of the CEO to deliver services in a manner that is all inclusive, with an approach that first requires listening. Moreover, one that is driven with the objective to add great value to the broadcast sector; in so doing, understanding the sector and its challenges. This GNBA believes is paramount in its overall efforts to develop this vital industry.

Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Prudence Lewis- Bhola ( fourth from right), Administrative Manager, Mrs. Violet Boyal (fifth from right), Public Relations Officer Ag. ( first from right) & Management of DTV Channel 08

GNBA SUCCESSFULLY HOSTED OUTREACH SESSION WITH BERBICE OPERATOR

Officials of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority successfully hosted an outreach session with the management of Dave’s Television Channel 08, in New Amsterdam Berbice, on Monday last. This session was spearheaded by GNBA’s recently appointed Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Prudence Lewis- Bhola. During her introductory presentation, she strategically outlined the purpose for the Authority’s visit, the value GNBA places on its clients and its desire to meet with Broadcasters in an effort to understand their challenges.

Interactive session with Operator

Among many discussions, the CEO was especially clear on the point of the Broadcasting Act of 2011 being that supreme legislation that governs the Broadcasting Sector. She explained that the GNBA operates within the law; and the regulations are derived from the Act. The broadcaster was advised to be familiarized with the Broadcasting Act of 2011. In addition, it was noted that the  Regulations are being developed and it is currently at the level of Cabinet, as declared in the media. It was also stated that upon completion of those regulations, it will be gazetted before it becomes effective, so there is some progress in that regard.

The concerns expressed by DTV Channel 08 were carefully recorded and documented for presentation to the Board. The officials acknowledged the concerns expressed. However, the CEO stressed that under the Act, GNBA is expected to call for its fees, if GNBA fails to do so, it would not be delivering in accordance with its mandate.

The Operator was however comforted by the fact that with the impending Regulations, broadcasters will see a relief with specific regard to the payment of fees, given the proposed zoning and fee structures articulated by the Board at its last interactive session.

The CEO further explained that customer’s hardship becomes the Authority’s concerns; she implored the Operator to inform the GNBA of any such challenges, preferably in writing, so that such concerns can be communicated to the Board.The CEO was clear about her management approach; she explained that in any sector, there are stakeholders who should be invited to take part in the process of developing that sector.

This outreach forms part of a broader initiative the CEO proposes for the year 2017. She is especially keen on the approach where inclusivity and/or consultation will be foremost in GNBA’s efforts to regulate, supervise and develop the National Broadcasting System.

 

Chief Executive Officer of the GNBA( left) Dr. Prudence Lewis-Bhola, Prime Minister and First Vice-President Dr. Moses Nagamootoo (third from Left) with government officials and representatives of various religious organizations.

GNBA’S NEWLY APPOINTED CEO PARTICIPATED AT INTER-RELIGIOUS CONSULTATION

 

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Dr. Prudence Lewis-Bhola, Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority.

 

Newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority, Dr. Prudence Lewis Bhola delivered an outstanding presentation on Monday last, at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre. Her presentation was conducted under the auspices of the Prime Minister; who spearheaded a Consultative Session with stakeholders for the establishment of an Inter- Religious Television Station.

Dr. Lewis-Bhola lauded the Prime Minister’s support for such a  television station and spoke extensively about broadcast standards, regulations and compliance requirements for broadcasters. She also noted the potential such a television station has for positive change, she posited that “this religious station has the potential to build and strengthen the moral fabric of the Guyanese society”

“An inter-religious television station can create an environment that fosters peace, national unity, respect among various religious denominations and encourage tolerance among our citizens; particularly, our young impressionable minds that are often influenced by the vulgarity and indecency perpetuated in certain content broadcast on National Television,” Dr. Lewis-Bhola explained.

However, stakeholders were urged to familiarize themselves with the Broadcasting Act of 2011 and were encouraged to demonstrate the requisite level of maturity, tolerance and respect for each other’s beliefs, as they function in an environment this type of television station creates.

The CEO emphasized the mandate of the GNBA to effectively regulate, supervise and develop the National Broadcasting System and provide services of superior quality and value to both the licensing process and for the dissemination of broadcasting content, in the interest of all Guyanese.

Prime Minister and First Vice-President Dr. Moses Nagamootoo who holds ministerial responsibility for Information, explained that, “religion has played a cardinal role in the development of our civilization, it has been the cornerstone for the development of society, so therefore it cannot be ignored.”

The PM further noted that “there is a dire need for radio and television stations that are culturally homogeneous. In Guyana, he stated,  the freedom to practice religion is written in the constitution”. However, he warned against the discrimination of one religion against another.

Sharon Patterson, Programme Coordinator of the Ministry of Social Cohesion explained, that the establishment of an inter- religious television station would strengthen the Ministry’s efforts to foster social cohesion in Guyana.

The chairman of the Inter-Religious Organization, Pastor Ronald McGarrell will continue consultations with the various religious bodies, with the aim of fulfilling the Prime Minister’s desire for maximum inclusion of all the religious organs within our nation. The IRO is expected to provide the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority with all the relevant documents to aid in the process of acquiring a broadcast license.

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