Head of the governing Board of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) Ms. Bibi Shaddick reported to the press today that letters have been sent out to current broadcasters who were approved to provide service prior to the Broadcast Act coming into force. She explained that they had been previously granted permission by letter to continue broadcasting, and of the requirement to submit documentation so licences could be approved consistent with the Act.
She emphasized that “every single broadcaster in Guyana who is currently approved to broadcast” is required to submit such documentation.
Letters of Approval have been dispatched for broadcast licences to be issued for 2013 to eight television broadcasters with two letters pending which would bring the total to 10 television broadcasters; eight radio broadcasters and six cable providers who have abided with the regulations. The 22 letters have been written (the two pending will soon be sent) by the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) signalling approval of the requirements met, and permission granted for broadcast to continue.
Ms. Shaddick explained that while applications have been received from persons applying for new licences, those have not been dealt with as yet. “We are trying to regularise those that exist, before we populate more of the broadcast area,” she stated.
She reiterated that persons who had applied for licences before the Broadcast Act came into effect would have to reapply to ensure that they comply with the new regulations. Among those who have moved to comply with this requirement are Benschop Radio and Region Ten where the requisite forms have been uplifted to supply documentation. “There are no sacred cows here,’” she declared, stating that all broadcast entities currently operating, those who previously applied and those who are now applying must provide the necessary documentation.
Ms. Shaddick noted also that there is a list of approved broadcasters currently operating who have not yet provided all their documentation so their licences for 2013 have not yet been approved. This list consists of nine TV operators, three radio operators and two cable operators. Still to provide relevant documentation are nine television operators, three radio operators and two cable providers.
With regard to the cable providers, Ms. Shaddick explained that there are those who provide analog services using hard cables and those that are digital using fibre optic cables. E-Networks, Ali’s Broadcasting in Berbice and Quark Networks are those which use fibre optic cables. Two of these companies have been approved, and in addition to a licence fee, they will have to pay a fee for the use of the spectrum.
The Broadcast Act provides for the broadcasters to pay a fee for the use of the spectrum which has been worked out by the NFMU based on strength of transmission and other technical data. An annual licence fee will also have to be paid which may vary in some instances.
For commercial operations, the licence will be 3% of the gross revenue of the entity for the previous year, based on submitted audited financial accounts, provided that the 3% is not less than $2.5M. For those new commercial broadcast operators who have just begun to broadcast, the fee has been fixed at $2.5M. These fees have been approved by the Minister of Information who has the approval of the Cabinet to apply them, Ms. Shaddick said.
The Board is also carefully examining all entities to ensure they do not operate illegally by broadcasting two distinct stations or signals instead of operating their various spectrums by way of relay or links.
Regarding fees to be paid for the use of the spectrum, entities are required to pay for their main broadcast spectrum, as well as their feeders and links spectrums. For example, TV Guyana Inc., has to pay for five spectrums, based on the primary Channel 28, on the secondary spectrum in New Amsterdam as well as two Georgetown links and one at Bushy Park. Telecor Radio will have to pay six spectrum fees for Georgetown; New Amsterdam; Skeldon, Corentyne; Linden; Bartica and Essequibo.
Despite the fact that letters of approval have been sent out, there is still the instance where entities which have received their letters of approval and have not paid while continuing to broadcast; and those entities which have not submitted their documentation and also continue to broadcast. A decision to institute a cutoff point and/or penalties for such entities has not yet been made, but is an important part of the board’s agenda to be soon addressed.
The Chairperson of the Board has reported that Tuesday’s Board meeting saw the approval of the composition of the Monitoring Committee of the Board of the GNBA which will consist of five persons, one of whom will be a member of the Board. Ms. Shadick declined to make public the names since the members of the Committee have not yet been informed that they had been selected, and as such they have not formally accepted the mandate.
The names are expected to be made public by July 1 when the Committee is expected to be up and running under the governing Board of the GNBA. Shaddick did indicate that the persons selected are amply qualified in the field of broadcasting, media and communication to carry out the functions required of them.
Ms. Shaddick noted that the staff of the Monitoring Committee monitors all broadcast entities to ensure that they do not breach the regulations of the Broadcast Act regarding material aired.
That the GNBA is not yet in place, Ms. Shaddick explained is due to the fact that it takes time to do so, and all the formal modalities regarding the structure of the body and other necessities have not yet been worked out and advertisements placed in the public domain.
Nevertheless, the Board is functioning as a governing body. That body is also in the process of finding suitable rental accommodations for both the NFMU and the GNBA since the building currently occupied by the NFMU will be replaced by a new and bigger building which will accommodate the NFMU, GNBA and other related bodies.
All expenditure of the Board is currently being met by the NFMU. Board Members are operating on a part-time basis, and have not been paid for the 10 months since the Board has been in operation. Apart from working on the approval for broadcast licences, the board has also worked on a proposed structure for the GNBA which has been submitted to the subject Minister for approval.