I was out of the country from the end of March to around the middle of April this year, and so I am responding to two matters which were printed in the newspapers in Guyana. The first, a letter, concerns my relationship with Brian Yong. I have never established any contractual relationship with Yong and so I have never worked for him. Yong approached me in 2006-07 and wanted to use my installation, including security, transmission tower, dishes, electricity etc, at Versailles, including two used dishes which he got from Esso or Shell and which I assembled at the Versailles transmission site. My son and I worked on this project spending several million dollars of our money and hundreds of hours of our time installing the dishes and modifying Versailles to accommodate Yong’s operations. To the best of my knowledge, since it was the start-up time of his operations and Yong claimed that he was cash strapped, we were never paid for the use of our infrastructure or our work in the nearly three years that we laboured on this project.
I understand, since I have never seen it, that the writer made some very disparaging remarks about me in that letter, and I was advised by the people who relayed the contents of the letter to my attention, that I should respond to the allegations legally. I have opted not to do so since people in this country have been accustomed to the lies and dishonesty of corrupt people/government officials perpetrated against people like me and Mr Freddie Kissoon who expose the corruption of the PPP; they also told me that they were surprised that the Stabroek News would publish an unsigned letter with such defamatory remarks about me.
Secondly, I would like to state that I am not the authority in Guyana which issues radio licences to people, and I am aware that at the time of the sale of the Vieira Communications Limited (VCL) shares to Dr Ramroop on June 3, 2009, Vieira Communications 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.
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. 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.
The public would remember that in 2008 Mr C N Sharma had started to broadcast Channel 4 from his Robb Street installation and the government stopped him from doing so, since they alleged that Robb Street was not the location from which Channel 4 was supposed to be broadcast. In addition, they claimed that no one could sell or move a channel from its current location since no new licences would be issued for radio or for television until a proper broadcast authority was formed.
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.
If it was Vieira Communications 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. 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.
Trinity Broadcasting service was removed from Guyana under Mr Jagdeo since the NFMU alleged that for 7 years it was broadcasting from Versailles instead of from Alberttown which was the registered place on the licence. This denied over 200,000 Christians their religious channel.
And as soon as possible presidential immunities must withdrawn from our constitution since we have seen what can happen when the presidency is in the hands of a man like Mr Jagdeo.
I see a lot of hogwash that people are given 5-6 FM frequencies since they have to repeat the signal across the country. This is absolute nonsense; there are microwave links which are available in the final acts of the International Telecommunications Union set aside for this purpose, and since the radio signal is so narrow, buying satellite time to take the signal across Guyana is probably far more economical than using different frequencies and repeaters, especially since we do not see that the 5 channels awarded to Dr Ramroop as far as we know, are divided into broadcast (primary) and repeater (secondary) frequencies. In any event, can you imagine going to Berbice and looking for your favourite channel which is supposed to be 100.1 and can’t find it in Berbice because there it’s 78.9? And this can happen for 10 or 15 stations? The incompetence of the government of this country and especially the NFMU is frightening! Also can you imagine that you are in Linden and you are listening to 98.1 hot FM from Georgetown and since they are repeating, using the FM band it’s coming over on 106.4 and since you are tuning to seek it you are distracted on the road?
As far as Dr Ramroop having an uplink to transmit Channel 28 by satellite all over Guyana is concerned, and that it was that which made the government decide to approach him to allow them to uplink the satellite signal for the learning channel from his location in Ruimveldt, it might be noted that uplinking to any satellite is very expensive, and there is no income from local TV to allow it to pay for the satellite time which would receive this signal and send it back to earth. This brings up a new question: if they are paying Ramroop $3.6 million per month to uplink this learning channel, who is paying the estimated US$15,000 dollars a month to rent the satellite transponder ‒ Dr Ramroop or the Guyana taxpayers? Satellite time is very expensive for television, but not for radio since the radio signal is so small.
I know that in 2009 when the shares of 28 were transferred to Dr Ramroop I did not have such an uplink; in fact no one except GT&T was supposed to have an uplink and the NFMU would have had to give permission to import it. When did this happen? And I believe that GT&T would also have had to give permission since their monopoly included all uplinks for everything ‒ telephone, television, etc. Did they give permission? And if GT&T had given permission for their monopoly to be broken in this manner, since it my belief that once it is broken, it is broken, did they or the government inform Digicel?
Finally, since we are dealing with this matter, wireless cable should not have been awarded to two operators in the same primary zone. The band is too small so we have two close associates to the PPP operating two wireless cable systems, and since they are operating in the same band the Guyanese people will be subjected to having 60 channels from each operator with much repetition, since they both have CNN, HBO, etc, instead of 120 channels from a proper operator whom we must treat like a public utility regulated by the PUC. In Guyana to legitimise the satellite delivery of DirecTV, it has to pay the government tax. How much are Yong and Persaud required to pay? Remember Editor, that in the example of Jamaica the principle was that for the payment of the published sum, someone bought the exclusive rights to supply cable for a period of 15 years, ie, a monopoly. One construes from this that if the entity does not serve the public’s interest properly, the government reserves the right to grant the franchise to someone else at the end of the 15 year period. In this case in Guyana Yong and Persaud were given a monopoly without any provision for renewal or payment to the government coffers.
The biggest joke is when Mr Jagdeo called in all operators and told them that the Wild West going on in broadcasting must not be allowed to happen in cable as well, his idea of regulation in the sector was to award it to two friends and leave everyone else out. These two don’t have the rights for the Demerara region alone; the rights as we understand it are that they can deliver cable nationally. And telling the public that it’s Ok to kill the TV broadcasters with fees both to the NFMU and now to the Broadcast Authority is OK, but it is not OK in the case of our cable operators, according to Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, since they serve such small amounts of people. Yes, and pigs fly!