Following the expiration of the deadline for the submission of applications for television licences to the newly formed Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBS), a number of stations which had complied are still to have an acknowledgement from the Authority as to whether they could continue to broadcast. September 27, 2012 marked the shutoff date for all existing television station licensees to reapply for permission to broadcast.
The opposition has heavily criticised the composition of the GNBS – formed under the Broadcast Act – and the way that former President Bharrat Jagdeo brought it into being. It is being seen as yet another attempt to muzzle dissenting voices and critics of the Government.
A representative of CNS Channel 6 said that the station applied for a new licence but up to now has not heard any feedback from the Broadcasting Authority. She said that the station was told that the Authority was out of forms and that the station should apply in the form of a letter written to the Authority.
The representative said that this letter was dispatched before the deadline of September 27 but there has been no acknowledgement. The station is broadcasting as per normal.
The management of HGPTV in Beterverwagting on the East Coast of Demerara said that the station paid its annual fee and submitted its application to renew its licence.
“We wrote a letter. We took it to both Valmikki Singh [of the National Frequency Management Unit] and to the CEO of the GNBA,” said Nigel Fraser of HGPTV.
“We paid our normal annual fee. Usually when we pay they would send [the licence] by mail,” he said. As at Friday afternoon, the station had heard nothing from the GNBA.
Max McKay of Channel 7 said that his station received no acknowledgement or response to its application in the form of a letter. He said that they too were told that forms were unavailable and hence they should write a letter seeking their licence. But he pointed out that the previous licence was valid up to the end of the year. “I don’t understand why they want us to go through this process,” he lamented.
Stabroek News was reliably informed that members of the Guyana Media Proprietors Association (GMPA) on September 26, 2012 submitted a letter to the GNBA asking to continue broadcasting and as a result of this, there is said to be dialogue between the GNBA and the GMPA with a view to accommodating the request of the stations to operate without prejudice to any new regulations or laws. Members of the GMPA include GWTV Channel 2, CNS Channel 6, HGPTV Channel 16, RCA Channel 8, RBS Channel 13, MBC Channel 93, DTV Channel 8, SKAR Channel 102, WRHM Channel 7 and HBTV Channel 9.
On September 27, 2012, Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger Luncheon announced that the deadline for broadcast service providers to apply to continue broadcasting to the GNBA had expired and that the law is explicit as to the consequences.
According to the Act, broadcasters who fail to comply with the provisions of the law can be fined and imprisoned and their assets forfeited.
The Opposition is to bring amendments to the Act to reduce the powers of the Minister of Information in the Act.
Attorney and PPP/C MP Bibi Shadick chairs the board of the GNBA, which includes Margo Boyce, Gerald Gouveia, Major General Rtd. Norman McLean, Dr. Dindyal Permaul, Sherwood Lowe (nominee of the Opposition Leader) and Charles Ramson Jr.
A senior official of the GNBA said that work is presently ongoing to bring all of the television stations up to scratch in terms of compliance with the new law.
“Many of them have reapplied. We are in discussion with the Chairperson of the GNBA Bibi Shadick. Some people need to be incorporated. We are working on getting all of them compliant,” said the source. The person said however that some of the requirements are not very clear and these are now engaging the discussions.
He added that the regulations that come out will determine how the law will be applied and it is unlikely that any station will be shut down as a result of the new law. “You have to give people time to comply. A lot of these issues will be addressed at an upcoming board meeting,” the person said.