Government tables Broadcast bill

The government yesterday tabled the long-delayed broadcast legislation, which had been promised since the PPP/C took office in 1992.

The Broadcasting Bill 2011, which was tabled by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in the National Assembly, is to make provision for the setting up of a National Broadcasting Authority, to be responsible for the regulation, supervision and development of the National Broadcasting System. The law would also provide for the licensing of broadcasting agencies.

If the legislation is passed prior to the dissolution of the current parliament for the upcoming elections, it would see the lifting of the freeze on the granting of licences both for television and more significantly radio, where the state has held a monopoly.

Government has withheld new licences on the grounds that there is no broadcasting authority in place, and that authority cannot be set up until there is a broadcasting law. A similar reason has been given for the refusal to allow existing private stations to extend their signals.

According to the bill’s explanatory memorandum, the authority would regulate the content and quality of broadcasts. “[It] shall be charged with overseeing all aspects of broadcasting, by wireless or by wire, cable, satellite or other means,” it says. It would also control, within limits imposed on it, all aspects of radio and television.

The authority would be managed by a Governing Board, comprising not less than four or more than seven members, one of will be the Chairman, the bill says. It proposes that the President shall appoint the Chairman and the members of the Board, while the Opposition Leader would be responsible for making one nomination, after meaningful consultation with parliamentary opposition.

The bill, the explanatory memorandum also says, will introduce a new regime for regulating and facilitating enterprise in the broadcasting sector, while at the same time ensuring that all radio and television stations continue to play their traditional role of educating, informing and entertaining the community.

As a result of the government’s delay in presenting the bill, AFC MP Khemraj Ramjattan had last year tabled a private Broadcasting Bill, but he asked that proceedings on it be deferred after he received notice that the government was not prepared to offer its support.

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