The Guyana National Broad-casting Authority (GNBA) will this morning be issuing radio licences to several new applicants, including television broadcaster Chandra Narine Sharma and the Kaieteur News newspaper.
Sources at the agency told Stabroek News that the six licensees include an applicant who already has a radio station in Essequibo.
In November of last year, the GNBA presented five radio broadcasters with licences for 2016, saying that they have demonstrated full compliance under the 2011 Broadcasting Act and that the move paved the way for the enforcement of the then recently-amended legislation.
Chairman of GNBA Leslie Sobers had explained then that licensing would be done in compliance with the amendment of the Broadcasting Act, which became law on September 7, 2017.
Those awarded licences in November were Radio Guyana Inc., National Television Net-work Radio Inc. Wireless Con-nections, iRadio Inc. and the state-owned National Com-munications Network. The PPP’s radio station, Freedom Radio, was also granted a licence.
Except for NCN, all the companies had been granted licences by former president Bharrat Jagdeo in 2011. The iRadio licence went to former Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud and several relatives, who have since sold their interests to a Trinidadian media group.
Jagdeo’s awards triggered denunciations, with many calling on the David Granger-led APNU+AFC coalition government to revoke the licences and formulate a system that is impartial and lawful.
The criteria included that the applicants must be fit and proper and must have the financial means, the technical skills and requirements to allow them to obtain spectrum access.
Critics had said that Jagdeo had no basis for the award of the licences as the required broadcast authority was not in place in 2011. It was purported that he had acted under the provisions of the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB), which was established during dialogue with the late opposition leader Desmond Hoyte. However, by the time Jagdeo made the licence awards, the ACB was no longer functioning.
Sobers had explained that the licences granted last year were for 2016 and to pave the way for a smooth transition for the new licensing regime. He informed that the agency was still to issue for 2017 and that this would be approached with a little care.
“As you know, the [Broad-casting] Amendment [Act] was assented to on the 7th of September and came into law on the same day and that new Act, which amends the 2011 Act, has some provisions in it that were not there before,” he said.
He added that with the presentation of the 2016 licences, the Authority will now have to determine how the licensing for 2017 will be done.
All broadcasters were required to reapply for licences following the enactment of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Act. The new law required all radio and television broadcasters to apply for licences within 30 days of the amendments coming into force, failing which they faced immediate closure of their operations.