iRADIO which currently has two controversial radio frequencies − 90.1 and 91.5 − in operation has been sold to a Trinidad owned company which has a branch here, according to sources who questioned the validity of such a purchase given that the licence to operate the frequencies was acquired less than three years ago.
Stabroek News was reliably informed that the purchasing company was not interested in the sister entity iNEWS. Steps at the moment are being taken to relocate iNEWS which is an online news entity from its current Campbellville site. iRADIO will remain at that location this newspaper was told.
iRADIO and iNEWS, according to reports, belong to Telecor & Cultural Broadcasting Inc, one of the companies controversially allocated radio frequencies prior to the departure of Bharrat Jagdeo from office in November 2011. The five frequencies allocated to this broadcasting company (90.1 and 91.5 inclusive) were assigned in the name of the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, Omar Lochan, who is said to be the company’s secretary. At the time Robert Persaud was heading that ministry and it was later revealed that his wife and another close female relative were listed as directors of Telecor Company.
Stabroek News was told that Persaud’s close female relative is listed on documents as the owner of both iNEWS and iRADIO. Reports are that this person resides abroad but that both entities are managed by Persaud.
Several weeks ago efforts were made to contact Persaud via cell phone but these were futile. Subsequently through a social media forum he advised that he be emailed. An email was dispatched on June 18 but to date there has been no response.
Persaud was questioned on the validity of reports that iRADIO had been sold and that he was in the process of selling iNEWS. This newspaper also asked about the fact that he had been vocal on Facebook as it relates to the PPP/C’s decision to protest the results of the just concluded elections and queried whether this was an indication that he had parted ways with the party.
He was also asked about his political future here in Guyana and whether he plans to migrate.
Sources told Stabroek News recently that iRADIO started up just over a year ago, months after the others which had been allotted frequencies had begun their operations. According to the sources at present it has 90.1 and 91.5 in operation. The latter frequency is used in Berbice.
This newspaper was told that Persaud was the person who was overlooking the radio station’s operation as well as that of iNEWS.
Khemraj Ramjattan (leader of the AFC and current Minister of Public Security) had said during a television programme in 2013 that one of the directors of Telecor was Persaud’s wife Kamini Persaud and the other is Persaud’s sister Ruth Baljit. This newspaper has since been told that Kamini Persaud is the CEO of iRADIO and that an arrangement was brokered for her to remain although the company had been sold. According to the sources the sale was finalized either late last year or earlier this year after some issues which were stalling the process were finally ironed out.
Persons connected to the purchaser have since gone to the location to check out the equipment that is in place at the radio station.
Before leaving office former President Bharrat Jagdeo distributed a number of radio licences as well as frequencies among mainly friends and supporters of the PPP.
Several observers have denounced the awards, citing the absence of any clear objective criteria in making them as well as the disregard for applications from established media entities. The Guyana Media Proprietors Association has called for a reversal of the decisions, while the Guyana Press Association has expressed concern that the distribution of the licences and frequencies was weighed in favour of friends of the governing party. Broadcaster Enrico Woolford has since filed a lawsuit to quash Jagdeo’s decision arguing that it was unconstitutional.
The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) had also expressed concerned at the way the licences were assigned.
There have been calls for the licences to be revoked.
Government in defence had posited that in the absence of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority, Jagdeo had the responsibility for issuing these licences. It was said that had the “government-friendly individuals” met the three criteria considered then their radio licences would have been granted.
The criteria in keeping with the law would have been that the applicants must be fit and proper; must have the financial means, the technical skills, and requirements which allow them to obtain spectrum access.