Looking beyond the broadcast amendments

Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo and his political allies in the A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change Government (APNU/AFC) must be somewhere now celebrating the victory they think they scored in the National Assembly of Guyana with the passage of the no doubt controversial amendments to the country’s Broadcast Bill of 2011.
Nagamootoo, in particular, may very well feel that he is deserving of personal praise for what is being considered by some supporters of the coalition Government as yet another step in the right direction towards the fulfilment of a core campaign promise.
That campaign promise was the revocation of radio licences that were issued by former President Bharrat Jagdeo back in 2011 before he demitted office. The second part and more politically appealing aspect of the same campaign promise was to deprive those who were labelled during the 2015 elections campaign by Nagamootoo, Cathy Hughes and President David Granger as “friends and family of Jagdeo and the PPP” of private property, equipment and their livelihoods in one of the most humiliating ways bringing an end to the manufactured controversies created by the APNU/AFC political pundits about the issuance of those licenses and their legality.
Having failed to get the Guyana National Broadcast Authority to use its powers to revoke the licences after coming to power in 2015 and failing to challenge the process successfully in the courts, the Government has now moved to the National Assembly to achieve a short-term cosmetic political victory. It knows fully-well that broadcasters are not fools but if they threw enough red herrings into the mix, their real intentions would be concealed. And for a short moment, it was successful after it managed to rile up the broadcasters and public about its demand that TV and radio stations air up to one hour Government sponsored Public Service Announcements daily between 06:00h and 22:00h free of cost.
This demand in itself is reprehensible and should be seen as a threat to the freedoms enjoyed by private broadcasters and their constitutional right to determine their own content and express their ideas freely without interference once they abide by the laws governing the industry and country. It will also affect the profitability of the TV/radio/cable stations as they may have to forego over 7 million yearly. Also, this Government by its very deeds is no direct from the People’s Progressive Party (PPP). The content for the PSA’s will not be crafted by the independent broadcasters at the State-owned National Communications Network (NCN) by Government’s Department of Public Information (DPI) which is led, operated and stacked with political rejects, cronies and politicians handpicked by the APNU/AFC. This DPI is worse than the PPP’s GINA. It is barefaced, indifferent and intellectually bankrupt as far as peddling programmes and shows that adhere to the tenants of good journalism and communication principles, and content that are not partisan as well as independent. So, private broadcasters will also be at the whims and fancies of the APNU/AFC Cabal because they cannot easily reject the subliminal politically flavoured PSAs given consequences that are outlined in the amendments.
But the bigger issue is that the AFC/APNU will now have the power to reject and approve licences that were already legally granted by the State. Forget the State agency that will be used as the scapegoat. These parties must ensure that they too have a piece of broadcast pie and that people who they feel will be loyal to them also have access like the Kaieteur News, CNS Ch 6, Stabroek News and others… So much for criticising the alleged misdeeds of the PPP. The truth is, Nagamootoo and the APNU could care less about righting the ghostly wrongs of the PPP. They are in office not to deliver good governance and policies but to settle personal, ethnic and political scores with key personalities in the Opposition.
As night follows day, when the amendments are signed into law, drama will follow. The agency responsible will reject half of the licences issued in 2011 for radio frequencies, reassign some and challenge some private owners to restructure their operations or face closure. Lawsuits will follow and the country’s Attorney General who has a track record of passing the buck to others, as well as incompetence will lose the initial case before later blaming Anil Nandlall, then appealing it. Things will return to normalcy for a while and then President Granger will drop the bombshell when he announces the licences he has approved which were recommended by the GNBA. Drama and public disquiet will resurface and things will return to normalcy. In the end, Nagamootoo and the coalition would have done exactly what the PPP did using a different mechanism but the media pundits and gods of virtue would be too coy as well as afraid to point it out because they have already sold their souls to the coalition in return for their ‘brown paper bags’ which contained postings as CEOs, Directors, advisors, PRs and the head of the social media imagery department (SMID).
Guyanese must stand on principle or they will not stand at all. They must reject the APNU/AFC’s thirst to acquire people’s personal private property if they were part of a clearly outlined process in law that allowed them to purchase or own them in the first place. If they claim the process was flawed, correct the system going forward. They are interested in recovering assets, compensate those who will suffer in the end handsomely.