After months of issuing threats, the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has finally taken legal action against three broadcasters who failed to honour their financial obligations.
Among the three broadcasters who were served plaints for legal proceedings, the GNBA said one has since decided to pay all outstanding licence fees.
As a consequence of this act of compliance, the GNBA withdrew its lawsuit against this broadcaster.
However, the two remaining broadcasters— Atlantic Cable Network Inc and Bartica Communications Network Inc— are ordered to appear before the court to answer proceedings on September 30, 2019.
In a press statement issued on Friday, the GNBA reminded that it has been urging broadcasters to pay their broadcast licence fees for months.
“The GNBA takes this opportunity to urge non-compliant broadcasters to bring themselves in conformity with the law and to honour their obligations,” the Broadcasting Authority stated.
In May 2019, the GNBA had issued a warning to broadcasters who still refused to honour their financial obligations to the Authority.
In its statement, the GNBA had said: “Those broadcasters who never had a broadcasting licence and are broadcasting; whose licences have expired and have not renewed their licences but are still broadcasting, and those who owe the Authority millions of dollars and are refusing or failing to pay, are the ones that will be brought before the court”.
Subsequently, in June 2019, the Authority released a list of all broadcasters who were in full compliance – yet another step to coerce errant broadcasting entities to pay up.
According to the GNBA, the legal cable broadcasters are: Premium Communications Inc, E-Networks Inc, Infinity Telecommunications Inc, Go-Tech Inc, Movie Star Inc, and Northwest Television Inc.
The authorised radio broadcasters are: Freedom Radio Inc, Little Rock Radio Inc, Pinnacle Com Inc-Radio, Radio Guyana Inc, Hits & Jams Entertainment Inc, NTN-Radio Inc, I Radio Inc, CNS Radio Inc, Multi-Cultural Communications Inc, News-Talk Guyana Inc, JREM, Keystone Solutions Inc, and National Communications Network (NCN).
Meanwhile, CNS Inc, Countryside Broadcasting Inc Ch 19, Community Broadcasting Network, Dave’s Television Ch 8 Inc, Little Rock Television Inc-TV, Pinnacle Com Inc-Television, STVS Ch 4/21 Inc, Television Guyana Inc, Washington Channel 2 Inc, MTV Inc, NTN Inc-Television, and National Communications Network (NCN) have been listed as legal television broadcasters.
Apart from ensuring broadcasters are up to date when it comes to their financial obligations, the GNBA has been clamping down on broadcasters who broadcast unacceptable content.
To this end, the GNBA has talked about institutionalising the concept of “Citizen Monitoring” and this goes in tandem with the development of a research department that will be tasked with surveying listenership as well as the quality of programmes and conducting content analysis.
Currently, there is the Monitoring and Compliance Department which monitors the airwaves and when certain infractions are identified, those infractions are forwarded to the Special Investigative Committee for further examination.
According to the Authority, if it is decided that a fundamental breach was committed against the Broadcasting Act, then that broadcaster is summoned for a preliminary interview, where an opportunity is given for the broadcaster to refute or acknowledge the charge brought against his/her station.
Following that preliminary interview with the Special Investigative Committee, recommendations are made as to whether the broadcaster should be brought before the Hearing Committee or the Board.
Earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders for Freedom of Information (RSF) said that journalists in Guyana still face hurdles in executing their duties and some of the present laws that the country has implemented can land a journalist in jail despite the Constitution guaranteeing free speech and the right to information.