He is also questioning in whose names the television and radio licences operated by TVG and Radio Guyana Inc. respectively were issued. He said that the allocation of the radio licence to the station owned by the Dr. Ranjisinghi Ramroop-led group is only justified if that licence bears the name Vieira Communica-tions Limited.
In a letter to this newspaper on May 2, 2013, Vieira noted that at the time of the sale of Vieira Communica-tions Limited’s (VCL) shares to Dr Ramroop on June 3, 2009, Vieira Communica-tions Limited had a case pending in the Appeal Court asking that it be given a licence to broadcast a radio signal in Guyana which it had been pursuing since 1993.
After the court ruling in favour of VCL, Vieira said that the name was then changed to Television Guy-ana in January 2010.
“The Appeal Court delivered its judgement on October 14, 2009 stating that the VCL company’s rights had been violated and that it was entitled to a radio licence, and it directed the NFMU to award a radio frequency to it,” he said.
“I believe that we were using FM 100.1 when the equipment was seized illegally by the NFMU. Dr. Ramroop as the owner of the shares in VCL would have been entitled to that radio licence, but not, if what I suspect happened, did happen,” he said.
“The question should be asked in Parliament what is the name on the licence for Channel 28 now, and what is the name on the licence that is on the radio frequency issued to Dr. Ramroop,” he said.
“If it was Vieira Communica-tions Ltd which had applied to get a broadcast radio licence since 1993, and was awarded that licence in 2009 by the Appeal Court, this meant that it would have been first in line to receive a radio licence,” he said.
“But if the name of the company to which the Appeal Court granted a radio licence changed, then Ramroop would move from the front of the line to the back of it, since he would have given up the right of being the first among equals by changing the company’s name, when so many were denied the same request,” said Vieira.
Vieira is of the view that if the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Vieira Communica-tions Limited the licence could not be legally transferred to Ramroop’s company. He called on the Broadcast Authority to look into the matter.
In defending the award of a radio licence to it, the principals of TV Guyana have argued that this was mandated by the Court of Appeal ruling in 2009.
However, analysts have pointed out that the courts in matters like these can never order the issuing of a licence and didn’t in this case.
The 2009 ruling by the Court of Appeal and an earlier ruling by Chief Justice Ian Chang in 2008 in a separate case brought by Lindeners Norman Chapman and Mortimer Yearwood only said that the NFMU should expeditiously treat with the applications by VCL and the Lindeners.
This would then have placed VCL’s application on par with the one submitted by Stabroek News’ parent company GPI which was also made in 1993. While the NFMU was not compelled to issue the licence, it issued one purportedly in VCL’s name but completely ignored the one by Stabroek News’ parent company.
Sources say that if it was the case that the licence was issued in the name of TVG and not VCL then the government and the NFMU will have even more explaining to do as there could be no transferability between VCL’s application and one by TVG particularly since the principals of the company had changed. If there was any new application, that would put TVG’s application around 2010 and long after those by established media houses like Stabroek News.
The NFMU has been silent on these details.
On May 2, on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, US Ambassador D. Brent Hardt called on the Broadcast Authority to do its work and review and approve applications from qualified applicants for radio licences. “Guyana has a solid foundation of press freedom, but can take further steps, particularly in defined criteria of approval of licences.
I hope that when we meet again next May on this occasion, there will be real progress to celebrate towards an independent and pluralistic media landscape,” he said.
Noting that last year he welcomed the decision by the government to free up the radio waves and end the model of limited, state-influenced radio, Hardt said the process by which such licences are issued “must be fair and transparent.”
In the deluge of condemnation over the allocation of the licences, Government has defended the allocations, calling them racially and geographically balanced and reflective of press freedom.