All radio/TV/cable licences to be re-evaluated – GNBA

The Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) will be re-evaluating all radio, television and cable licences in keeping with a new national plan for frequency allocation and coverage.
This announcement was made on Friday when the Broadcasting Authority hosted its inaugural press conference to discuss concerns over the regulation of the broadcasting industry.
Some of the issues raised by the GNBA include the restructuring of broadcasting fees and licensing requirements; modifying the conditions for application with respect to new and existing licences; introducing new guidelines for retraining of monitoring personnel and monitoring of broadcast programming; among others.
Chairman of the Board of Directors Leonard Craig indicated that his expectation is that everyone (licence holder and new applicants) will have to re-apply and in the re-application process you are considered on the merit of your application. He elaborated that his interpretation would be a “re-evaluation” based on merit.
Craig termed this process as “putting everyone in one pool” and then evaluating them based on the premise that there is not enough frequencies to effectively support every one. The pool includes all current licence holders and 44 applicants.

Commercial zones

GNBA Chairman Leonard Craig
GNBA Chairman Leonard Craig

The GNBA intends to implement a new commercial zoning system which will attract separate fees based on the zones. The primary zone includes Georgetown and the areas encompassed in 30 miles of such at a fee of $1.2 million per annum for Television (TV) stations, with radio licensing requiring $2.5 million per annum.
The secondary zone inclusive of Berbice, Bartica and Essequibo will seek to incorporate a fee of $600,000 per annum for TV licences and 1.25million per annum for radio licences. The tertiary zoning licence inclusive of Linden, Lethem and Mabaruma will go at a fee of $300,000 for TV and $625,000 for radio licences per annum.
The Board of Directors will also look to facilitate community stations for marginalised and Hinterland areas at $150,000 for TV stations and $321,500 for radio stations per annum respectively.
According to the GNBA, “the fee for each zone is 50 per cent less than the preceding zone. Nevertheless, the policy of 3.5 per cent of gross income whichever is greater, will stand” and operators desirous of extending to more than one region, subject to approval, will be required to pay the annual fee applicable to the additional zones.
The Authority is still deliberating on fees for the cable systems. The GNBA is currently in discussions with the National Frequency Monitoring Unit for allocation of frequencies.
The GNBA has indicated that after careful study the fees for television was reduced since it was found that income generation for TV is less than in radio. The body then posited that there are currently seeking to collect monies owed to them in TV to the tune of $120 million. Defaulters will be met privately to determine an adequate option to resolving the issue. However, discussions are in progress as to the effect of an amnesty period for defaulters on television license.

Rating systems
The Board is also contemplating the introduction of ratings systems. This system will see 20 per cent locally produced programmes within the first year of broadcast. Local broadcast includes newscasts, music, documentaries and public service announcements. Additionally, the Directors are pressing for US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) ratings regulating the structure of TV schedules. TV-G and TV-PG rated shows will be allowed during the day with TV-PG13 rated materials will be allowed to show from 20:00h followed by TV-PG17 productions after 22:00h. The rating system is prohibiting the airing of TV-M, TV-R and TV-X.
Consequently, the Board is currently in preparation of a set of guidelines for all broadcasters.
As it relates to commercials, the Board is instituting not more than 15 minutes per hour of commercials as “it affects the smooth continuity of the programmes,” as well as the practice of stringing together one commercial after another which cuts into the programme content. Such practices will incur sanctions if not adhered to the GNBA’s outlined guidlines.
The Board says it is currently preparing a set of guidelines for all broadcasters.
The conference was represented by the Board of Directors including Chairman Craig, Attorney Abiola Wong-Innis, Victor Insanally, former broadcaster Anthony Vieira, Ameena Gafoor and Jocelyne Jossiah. The panel recommends “a complete review” of the spectrum allocation.