Given recent reports in the nation’s dailies regarding the plight of owners of broadcasting stations meeting the prohibitive licence fee to the Guyana National Broadcast
Authority (GNBA), I think it an opportune moment to address the attempt by the State to dictate or silence the voices of ordinary citizens and put the small man out of business. The GNBA has issued letters to broadcasters to make outstanding payments. The exorbitant yearly $2.5M licensing fees is rightly being challenged in a Court of Law since it is not only unconscionable, it attempts to deny people a fundamental right and freedom protected in Article 146 of the Guyana Constitution. The right to freedom of information, sharing and receiving ideas is fundamental to democracy and when this is denied, in this instance under spurious cover, it stifles the voice of the people, blankets the nation with fear, and hinders development. This young nation, in the Information/Knowledge Age, can ill afford any of these repressive consequences.
As an example, let me use Linden’s very own radio station 104.3 FM which is owned and operated by Mr. Haslyn Graham. Mr. Graham, is a young entrepreneur, a risk taker, operating in a weak economic and political landscape, dare I say, at times vindictive. I respect Mr. Graham’s statement that he did not receive a letter from the GNBA threatening action for non-payment of licensing fees dating back two years (Stabroek News and Kaieteur News 17th April, 2014), and his admission to the Guyana Times of said date about “feverishly” trying to acquire the $2.5M fee for 2013, before pursuing renewal fees for 2014. Those venturing out in this environment, particularly in Linden/Region 10, are operating in a climate where the government ignored Chief Justice (ag) Ian Chang’s 2008 landmark decision in favour of Lindeners’ right to a broadcasting licence and its continued refusal to return the television station (Channel 13) to the people of Linden even though an Agreement was signed between Central Government and the Regional Democratic Council on 21st August 2012. Their mere courage to venture out much less practise are deserving of the community’s support. Citizens and businesses of Region 10 are encouraged to take full advantage of the services offered by 104.3
Pressure needs to be brought upon the GNBA to review the broadcasting fee. The need for independent radio and television stations in Guyana is extremely necessary to offer greater alternative for fair and unbiased coverage, and cultivating independent thinking.
In attending to Mr. Graham’s claims of outstanding payments from the Regional
Democratic Council (RDC) 10, the following is noted.
1) Outstanding payment to 104.3 Power FM is for latter 2013 programmes which invoice was submitted two weeks prior to year end. All 2014 payments have been settled.
2) Mr. Graham is being assured that the RDC administration is currently working to rectify the situation.
Regarding the broadcaster’s “great feeling of uneasiness” in receiving a text message, for the record this message, which was blasted to others, read: “Good morning, I hope so far your morning has been peaceful, and by the Grace and Will of Almighty God, do have a blessed and pleasant Sunday.” If this message has offended, it is sincerely regretted.
It is my desire, including others, that Mr. Graham succeeds in retaining his radio station. As a businessman, in addition to personal/family’s economic advancement, the station creates work/income for others and offers the community an independent voice, which is good for Guyana and Guyanese.