Government yesterday maintained that the Region 10 administration would have to apply for a television licence like any other entity, although it has agreed in principle to allow the region to repossess a channel for usage there.
“The agreement of August 22 said that government would facilitate, that the region would apply for a TV station… The agreement said that government will facilitate in accordance with the law,” said Presidential Advisor Gail Teixeira, who was filling in for Dr Roger Luncheon at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing. She was at the time responding to questions pertaining to an update into the delay of the ownership of the Region 10 television station.
“Their view is that, as expressed by Mr Norton, they have submitted their application but they don’t feel they have to deal with the National Broadcasting Authority. The agreement is with government and the government must give them the licence. We say we don’t give licences. There is an authority by law that gives licences,” she expounded.
Several efforts to contact Region 10 Chairman Sharma Solomon and former PNC member Aubrey Norton, who helped broker the agreement, proved futile.
Former PNCR Member of Parliament and past owner of Vieira Communications Channel 28 Anthony Vieira has criticised the delay in granting the region a licence, saying that government seems to be backpedalling on the commitment it made to the Region Ten administration, the opposition and the people of Linden with regard to the television station for the region. Vieira said the expected transfer of equipment including a dish and a transmitter necessary for the operation of the television station was 120 days late.
“The agreement between the government and Region 10 on August 21 states that the dish and transmitter that were given to the Linden community will be given to the Region 10 Regional Democratic Council; that the dish and transmitter should be transferred to the region within 14 days of the signing of this agreement; that it was agreed that Region 10 will apply for a broadcasting licence and the government will facilitate the granting of that licence in keeping with the law,” he said, in a letter published in Thursday’s edition of the Stabroek News.
Vieira said the dish and transmitter had not been handed over as promised as at December 17, when it stated that it would have been done 14 days after the signing. “The expected transfer was never made and Lindeners were instead instructed to apply to the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) for the licence to operate…,” he said.
Teixeira said there was perhaps some misinterpretation of the document by the region’s administration and stressed that government never promised to give a licence but to turn over transmission equipment owned by former Bauxite Company, Green Construction, which it has already done.
She said the regional officials have now included a dish and transmitter belonging to NCN in that agreement, but that was never a part of government’s obligations.
“Subsequent to that agreement, there have been issues of whether the transmitter for NCN was a part of the whole thing. In the agreement, we said that the transmitter and the dish belonging to Green Construction is to be handed over to the region and that was done. …There is a transmitter there. But it seems as if they are saying they want the transmitter which is NCN’s… so there is now an issue of interpretation. But clearly we said Green Construction,” she explained.
Further, she explained that ownership of the land where the dish and transmitter were located became another issue. “The new issue that has been raised is that you can’t remove the transmitter and the dish physically, therefore the land that it’s on should belong to Region Ten television… We said that this matter was never raised in the discussions leading to the agreement… Could you please clarify this and say exactly what you mean… We have asked them to document,” she said.
Opposition Leader David Granger feels that government is being “petty” and trivialising the issue in an attempt to stall Region 10 from gaining ownership of a television station. “We feel that what was written was satisfactory and we did not feel any additional application was needed. We don’t see the reason for this dogmatic insistence and I don’t see why government has taken up this strange and stubborn position,” he said.
“It is apparent that government is trying to worm its way out of its commitment… The idea was for the people of Linden to have their own station and exercise their rights that is freedom of information. We are not talking about a foreign country; it’s your own people. Why they would be so petty is beyond me,” he said.
However Teixeira said that so far talks between the two sides have been amicable and government was looking forward to honouring its obligations.
“The discussions are not hostile. The mood is not as charged as prior to August 22… We want to keep meeting.
We want to keep talking and we are allowing that. Where there are these areas that we have a completely different view than the Region 10, and the interpretation and what the language of the August 22 agreement said, we are willing to say come let’s clarify this to keep an open door; to allow the two sides to keep talking,” she added.