Broadcast licences now set at $2.5M minimum

Chairman of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) Bibi Shadick yesterday declared that from this year, broadcast licence fees will be no less $2.5 million per year.

“The decision of Cabinet was that the annual licence fee for all licensed broadcasters… [be] equivalent to three per cent of the year preceding, for commercially operating firms… provided that the three per cent is no less than $2.5 million… You have to value this commodity called broadcasting space. $2.5 million is the minimum,” Shadick told the media at a press conference yesterday.

She was at the time giving an update on the operations of the Board of the GNBA which she heads.

The GNBA Chairman pointed out that given that the fee takes effect this year, it would mean that the applicable year is 2012. However, a decision was made by the board to use audited figures for the period ending December 2011, since many businesses would not have audited their finances for last year.

In addition to the annual licensing fee, she said, spectrum fees will be charged per frequency. This amount will be worked out by the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU). “The act provides for broadcasters to pay a fee for using the spectrum. Those [fees] are set by NFMU as well as a licence fee that has to be approved by the minister,” she said.

“There are no sacred cows here, all persons who operate commercially have to pay their fee and have to provide their documentation,” she added.

Money garnered from the fees will be used to carry out functions by the GNBA, especially for work undertaken by the newly formed monitoring committee, such as undertaking assessments of the stations in areas across the country and for fieldwork.

The GNBA’s board on Tuesday approved the names of four “amply qualified” persons who would join a board member to form the monitoring committee. However the names of the five-member team, who Shadick feels the broadcasting community would be pleased with, will be announced before July1 as the persons are to be notified formally. The manner in which members of the GNBA are selected has been criticized by the opposition.

Shadick also announced that the GNBA had dispatched 22 approval letters for licences for the 2013 period; eight to TV broadcasters, eight to radio broadcasters and six cable operators. Two other broadcasters will soon receive theirs.

However, new applicants will have to wait until the board has somewhat regularised old broadcasters before they are tended to. “We are trying to regularise what exists before we go looking to put more population into the broadcast area,” she said noting that the system had before the Broadcasting Act was akin to squatting.

She urged persons in Linden and those who said they had applied years ago to reapply as with the formation of the agency  all prior applications are void since there was no way to trace applicants.  “Any application that was not made after the coming into force of the Broadcast Act is not an application that the GNBA will consider. You have to make an application to the GNBA because there are certain documents you have to provide,” she said.

She informed that there was no new application from Stabroek News but one from the Kaieteur News for a radio licence.

“We do not have an application from Stabroek News, we have… a properly put together application from Kaieteur News,” she said.

“As I sit here today the situation with Linden has remained the same. Linden has not yet made an application to the GNBA,” she said.

“I know that a young man, Michael Forde collected on behalf of Region 10, application forms, and yesterday two members told me that a board of trustees had been formed for Linden. I am urging the community… to act with some kind of urgency in this matter so that the people of Linden can get television in their homes that they want,” Shadick said.

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