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Broadcasting Authority hiring lawyers to go after illegal broadcasters

Chair of the GNBA, Bibi Shadick

The Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) is strengthening its legal and administrative muscles to enforce the broadcasting law against illegal broadcasters and those that flout content rules.

Chairman of the GNBA Board, Bibi Shadick on Tuesday announced that three lawyers are to be hired to take offenders to court. “We have reached the stage where we have identified attorneys-at-law — more than one — to implement the Act to take people who are broadcasting without a licence to court,” she said.

Based on the long list of unlicensed broadcasters, she said the GNBA might hire more lawyers.

She alleged that the owner of Tarzie television station in Bartica has so far questioned why he needed to corporatize his entity and apply for broadcasting and spectrum licenses.
“He seems to want to test what can happen,” she told a news conference.

Shadick said HGPTV, headquartered in Beterverwagting (BV), was also expected to cease broadcasting on two channels, one of which had been approved for the station to broadcast from Georgetown. She said the station has since relocated its transmitter to BV where it was continuing to broadcast.

The GNBA Board Chairman said several stations have been granted approval to acquire licences but the October 31 deadline has passed and they have taken no action. A licence costs at least GUY$2.5 million.

They are: Movie Star Inc; Star TV Channel 102, WRHM Inc; 21st Century Communications, Rambarran Broadcasting Systems and HGPTV; NCN TV and Radio, New Guyana Radio, AMG Radio, Wireless Connections,  Linden Wireless Communication Network and Pinnacle Communications Radio, Bartica Communications Network (Cable) and Uramco Cables.

Rambarran and HGPTV are among four stations that have filed High Court actions against the GNBA. “In the meantime, as long as they continue to broadcast they will be deemed to be broadcasting without a licence because they don’t have any,” she said.

The GNBA boss said licences for Countryside Broadcasting and the Guyana Learning Channel are to be ready shortly. Government and the Authority, she said, have decided to waive spectrum and broadcast fees for the Learning Channel which has been registered as a Trust.

She noted that NTN TV has paid all fees for its TV licences but that company was yet to resolve outstanding matters with the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) before the GNBA gets the green-light to issue the licence. In the case of STVS Channel 4, that station and Hits and Jams were working out some arrangements was yet to submit documents to the GNBA.

Shadick further explained that Pinnacle Communications has paid for its TV licence but that company now wants to relocate its primary broadcasting system from Essequibo. In that case, she said the company would need a new licence so it has to decide whether to give up the existing licence or withdraw its application to relocate.

From Advisory Committee on Broadcasting to Monitoring Committee

The GNBA Chairman also announced that the regulations of the Postal and Telegraph Act , which had established the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting, have been repealed. That has now made way for the GNBA to appoint a Monitoring Committee.

Heading the committee is Retired Major General, Norman Mc Lean. Other members are University of Guyana academic, Dr. Paloma Mohammed and Head of the Guyana Learning Channel Dr. Seeta Shah-Roath and Attorneys Fazil Azeez and Sase Gunraj.

The first task is for the committee to examine the ACB regulations and the Broadcasting Act and formulate new regulations. Shadick said those would be recommended by the Board to the Minister of Information- President Donald Ramotar- for approval and gazetting.

When the GNBA meets before month-end, it is expected to finalize the timetable to examine new applications. She expressed satisfaction at the performance of the GNBA.

The Broadcasting Act contains several aspects that deal with the content of broadcasts to ensure fairness and balance.

Television licences have been so far distributed to TVG, GWTV 2, Pinnacle Channel 8 (Essequibo), MTV, CNS,  DTV (Berbice), Blackman and Sons and Little Rock TV.

For radio, the recipients to date are Radio Guyana Inc; Telcor and Cultural Broadcasting Inc; NTN Radio, Hits and Jams Entertainment, Little Rock Radio.

Cable licence recipients are E-Networks, Atlantic Cable Network, Ali Broadcasting Corporation, E3 Communications and Infinity Telecommunications.