Last Updated on Friday, 29 April 2016, 15:35 by Denis Chabrol
All radio and television stations, including 20 radio frequencies that were unilaterally licensed by the President Bharrat Jagdeo, would have to be evaluated in keeping with a new national plan for frequency allocation and coverage area, the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) announced on Friday.
“My expectation is that everybody will have to re-apply and in the re-application process you are considered on the merit of your application,” GNBA Chairman, Leonard Craig told a news conference. He explained that the licensees would not have to physically re-apply but their existing applications would be re-evaluated.
He said all radio, television and cable operators must re-evaluated in keeping with the GNBA’s plan to reorganize the local broadcasting landscape which could result in a number of the stations ending up on different area of the plan.
The GNBA also said in specific reference to the Jagdeo-issued licences that they were seeking legal advice from prominent Guyanese Senior Counsel, Sir Fenton Ramsahoye about whether to file legal action that would not be subjected to an injunction or amend the Broadcasting Act as a means of revoking those licenses.
Due to the likelihood that amending the Broadcasting Act might be “long and drawn out,” Vieria said the GNBA might challenge the issuance of the license in the High Court with the ultimate goal of scrapping those licences. “We have to find a way to do it so they can’t come back and that’s the (cause of) the delay. The delay is not that we are reluctant to do it,” he said. “The statement that we are making is that we are not in agreement with the way those licences were granted and our agenda is to revoke them; that’s our mandate, that is our decision,” he said.
GNBA Director, Attorney-at-Law Abiola Wong-Inniss said since the composition of the new board, no licence fees have been accepted from any existing licence.
The GNBA expects to receive firm advice and decide on the way forward in another two weeks.
On the issue of radio and television licences being granted to political parties, Vieria said he was against it because that would mean that all political parties would have to be granted should they apply. Freedom Radio is closely aligned to the main opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) whose operations are housed in that party’s headquarters on Robb Street, Georgetown.
Radio Guyana Inc; which is associated with Dr. Ranjisingjhi Ramroop a close friend of Jagdeo, has been issued with radio frequency licenses by the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) for 89.3 MHZ ; 89.5 MHZ; 89.7 MHZ; 106.9 MHZ and 107.3 MHZ. Telcor and Cultural Broadcasting has been granted frequency licenses for 89.7 MHZ ; 90.1 MHZ ; 91.56 MHZ ; 104.9 MHZ and 103.3 MHZ. New Guyana Company Limited has gotten 91.1 MHZ; 90.7 MHZ; 90.5 MHZ; 105.9 MHZ and 105.3 MHZ. The contact person for Telcor is Omar Lochan, a former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. Lochan is also the husband of Jaya Manickchand, sister of former Education Minister, Priya Manickchand. That entity’s directors are Kamini Persaud-a niece of Jagdeo and wife of then Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud- and Ruth Baljit his sister. I-Radio, formerly operated by Telcor, has since been sold to a Trinidad-based company and has been renamed Mix FM.
One frequency each has been granted to NTN Radio, Rudolph Grant, Wireless Connections, Hits and Jams Entertainment, Alfro Alphonso and Sons Enterprise, Haslyn Graham and Little Rock Television.
The GNBA currently has 44 pending applications for radio, television and cable services.
Against the background of assertions that the market could not support so many radio and television stations, Vieria said the GNBA would eventually have to conduct audience surveys.
The GNBA announced plans to grant an amnesty to allow stations to pay off GYD$121 million in license fees.
Authorities said stations would eventually be required to have 20 percent local programming and publish their programme schedules.
The regulatory body intends to purchase equipment to monitor the quality of signals and the content of programming in the public’s interest.