– persons with criminal records to be denied access
The Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) board of directors is slated to meet this Thursday to examine the list of criteria to be used during the consideration of over 25 applications for Radio and Television licences, according to several members of the board.
The meeting comes on the heels of a recent meeting between the GNBA and Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo where he urged the body to begin issuing Radio and TV licences and “allowing the window of fresh air to touch our broadcasting in Guyana.”
GNBA Chairman Leonard Craig had subsequently confirmed that the body will begin processing applications “within a matter of weeks”. He had however stated that the board was still working out the criteria.
But, a source close to GNBA told Guyana Times that the drafting of the criteria was almost complete by a sub-committee, and the full board at the Thursday, March 24 meeting is likely to examine the draft, which will be shared in consultations with broadcasters to secure their inputs before publishing the final version.
Among the areas being examined, according to the source, include children’s programming; advertising; local production and programming, pornography, fitness and propriety, among others.
When asked to expound on the criterion relating to “Fitness and propriety”, the source declined to elaborate, only saying it is in line with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Guidelines for Broadcasting Regulations.
Section 6.6 of the UNESCO Guidelines states; “It is an overriding requirement in many broadcasting laws for licence holders to be ‘fit and proper’. There is no legal definition of ‘fit and proper’ but it generally means that licensees must be free from a criminal record involving dishonesty (such as fraud or theft) or other serious crime.”
It pointed to an example where the UK regulator decided to revoke a company’s radio licence after its major shareholder was convicted of rape.
This criterion also speaks to cases of persons being involve in other criminal activities, including tax evasion, human trafficking, backtracking and murder.
Guyana Times was reliably informed that at least one of the persons whose application is pending is known for tax evasion and backtracking.
Recently, the GNBA chairman 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 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 businesspeople 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, that issue is taken into consideration, and any such person/s should be prohibited from obtaining licences.
There are around 25 pending applications for radio, television, and cable licences.