September 29, 2016

The law will be followed in issuing new licences – GNBA head

Radio, TV licences

 

… Broadcast experience not a requirement for applicants

Chairman of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) Leonard Craig has said that broadcasting experience is not a requirement for persons who are applying for radio and television licences.
Craig, when asked on Saturday by Guyana Times if this is a written or agreed requirement, answered in the negative, stating “I don’t recall seeing that.”

Chairman of the GNBA Leonard Craig

Chairman of the GNBA Leonard Craig

“All that is written is in the law, we are not veering off of that path whatsoever,” he said in reinforcing his point.
The GNBA Head’s statement throws out the window remarks made by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo on Friday, which insisted that the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration breached the Broadcasting Act by issuing licences to persons who had no broadcast experience.

No criteria
Meanwhile, when asked about the criteria to be used by the GNBA for the issuance of licences within weeks as announced on Friday, Craig said the body is still to come up with a list of criteria.
“When the Board meets, it will determine what the final criteria (is) which will be published. It will be a transparent process,” Craig stated.
But when asked how the Board will be able to determine who will be issued with licences in the absence of the list of criteria, Craig explained that a sub-committee of the Broad is examining that and he was not aware of its status.
However, the Broadcasting Act 2011 has an entire section which details the requirements for the Board to issue licences. For instance Section 23(i) insists that only corporations involved solely in broadcasting can be approved.

Reduced fees
In defending a proposal to significantly reduce the broadcast licensing fees, Craig said that the decision was birthed out of a survey done on the revenue stream of existing radio and television stations and was found to be reasonable.
“We took a survey of what people earn; TV stations and we made a decision as to what is reasonable… it’s what a TV station can actually support and not what we think they should have and we believe that is reasonable fee to charge,” the GNBA head stated.
When asked if he was not concerned this lowered fee could lead to a number of “fly by night” TV and radio stations, Craig said this was not possible since there are limited spectrums to be issued, and as such, the other accompanying factors will limit the number of persons who would actually be issued with licences.
“We cannot as a broadcast authority just hand out spectrum willy nilly. What we will do, we will raise the standards of expectation to which people will have to confirm. Things like programming, things like per cent of local programmes, language that you use on air and so o,n and we will be strict with violations, so eventually only those who are able to sustain a certain level of quality will then stay in the business,” he explained.
However, according to several members of the business community, reducing the broadcasting fees would in fact encourage individuals who would be unable to fund the infrastructure to service the geographical range specified by the Broadcasting Act – which is the entire 83,000 square miles of Guyana.

Eligibility for licences
The GNBA head, when asked if criminal records will be considered when applications are reviewed, said all factors will be considered.
“We would look at all the applicants, we will evaluate them using all the factors in the law and all other social and other factors. We will take everything into consideration,” he stated.
In fact, insiders informed  Guyana Times that this is the most salient requirement for issuing broadcasting licences, since broadcasters have a tremendous ability to influence the youths and other susceptible members of society.
One executive stated that Section 24(1) of the Broadcast Act specifies “Eligibility for licences” and subsection 2 insists “the authority shall have regard to…(b) whether the applicant is a fit person to hold a licence.”
Several members of the business community have raised concerns about the issuance of licenses to persons who would have been or are involved in criminal activities. They advised that when the Board meets, the issue of applicants involved in criminal activities, is taken into consideration, and any such person/s should be prohibited from obtaining licences.

Pending applications
Craig could not say offhand the number of pending applications or the names of some of the individuals who or companies which applied for licences, but assured that all applications will be examined, regardless of when they were submitted. He has been quoted in other reports as saying there are around 25 pending applications for radio, television, and cable licences.

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