After the 2001 elections and the
violence that accompanied it, the President of this country invited the leader
of the opposition to a process of dialog. I have told you repeatedly that there
were gross deceptions in this process of dialog. And tonight I will break the
silence and tell you about the Broadcast Bill which is currently before the
public and which has been condemned by the broadcasters, the press association,
the opposition and the Guyana Human Rights Association, among others.
This bill does not seek to regulate
broadcasting it seeks to control it, to tell us what we must or must not say,
what offends against good taste etc. this is called prior censorship and is
unacceptable. Freedom of expression constitutes one the essential foundations
of a democratic society. It is applicable not only to information and ideas
that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that
offend, shock or disturb such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and
broadmindedness without which there is no democracy. These are not my words
ladies and gentlemen these are the words contained in the judgement of the
European court of Human Rights of 26th November 2001, series A,
No. 217. The two exceptions to this right to free expression are 1. There must
be respect of the rights or reputations of others and 2. Due care must be taken
in broadcasts to protect national security, or public order, or public health,
So all of this fair and balanced, with
due accuracy nonsense which is currently attached to my broadcast license, and amended
and appended to the broadcast regulations are in conflict with much of the freedoms
of speech we are guaranteed by our Constitution and so they will have to go. I
am suggesting to the other Broadcasters that we should challenge it in a court of
law before we pay one more cent in broadcasting fees. It has and is interfering
with our right to freedom of speech, especially when executed by a politicised
Advisory Committee on Broadcasting.
Having agreed to this Dialog, a Bi-partisan
Board on broadcasting was set up where senior executive members and advisors of
both the PPP and the PNC worked for months holding public hearings and
discussion and submitted a report, this report was agreed to by both the PPP
and the PNC through their nominees of this board, if I am not mistaken the
chairman of this board was Gail Texeria and co chairman Derek Bernard. The
question before the public now, is, who had the effrontery to change all that
was agreed to by this Bi-Partisan board and write the nonsense and departures from
it as contained in this draft Bill currently before us?
The recommendations of the Bi-partisan
board should have formed the foundation of the Broadcast Bill, it was after all
what the two major parties agreed on, but it does not, since there are numerous
areas of gross departure between what the Bi-partisan board agreed to
and what is contained in this bill. And here are a few examples.
1. The Bi-partisan report gave no role to
the President in the selection of members of the National Broadcasting
Authority nor did they identify any nominating organisations in the process.
The Bi-partisan board visualised the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments to
make the appointments to the Authority and submit those names to the President
for appointment. The Bill on the other hand seeks to give the President several
names from which he will select members.
2. The termination of members of this
authority is at variance with the country's constitutional provisions
concerning the removal of constitutional commissioners, which is clearly spelt
out in article 225 of the constitution, the Bill specifically seeks to create a
group of insecure persons who are not autonomous and who can be removed by Sam
Hinds or Jagdeo at any time, for almost any reason.
3. The functions and role of the NFMU is totally
at variance with the agreements of the Bi-partisan committee and more importantly
with the Communiqué. In the Communiqué the President and Mr. Corbin agreed that
NFMU should act SOLELY in a technical and advisory role. This bill seeks to
give the NFMU [which is completely controlled by the political Minister of Communications]
the power to refuse to grant a frequency to anyone even if the Broadcast
Authority gives them a license to broadcast. Also being under political control
as it is, this NFMU can be used to harass any broadcaster if the Minister tells
them to, using excuses such as technical standards etc. to do so.
4. The autonomous and independent nature of
the broadcast authority is completely compromised by the numerous provisions
contained in the Bill where the Minister of Communications can interfere with
its work, and the numerous clauses where they have to consult with him,
the Guyana Human Rights Association's analysis of this bill tells us that the
powers of the government's influence on this Authority are unacceptably wide.
Again pointing to control and not regulation.
5. The issuance of radio licenses which the
Bi-partisan Board specifically stated should be allocated to diverse groups are
not reflected in the bill. The entire concept of diverse ownership of the radio
spectrum has been left out of the Broadcast Bill, the Guyana Human rights
Association puts it this way; the state has an obligation to take positive
measures to promote the growth and development of broadcasting, and to ensure
that it takes place in a manner which ensures maximum diversity...effective
measures should be put in place to prevent undue concentration, and to promote
diversity of ownership both within the broadcast sector and between
broadcasting and other media sectors. Such measures should take into account
the need for the broadcasting sector as a whole to develop and for broadcasting
services to be economically viable.
6. The joint committee did not agree that
the Authority will have far reaching powers to set fines etc. so all of this
nonsense of two hundred thousand dollars as fines and jail was never agreed to
or even contemplated, the human rights people have condemned this now, The
authority, will, after it begins to function decide within clearly outlined guidelines
what the penalties will be for breaches to the license by fines and warnings
but not jail.
7. The GHRA refers to the special role
of the state media as identified in the Bill, and they are as confused as the
rest of us as to what exactly this special role is? and how it agrees with the
concept of fair competition which is expressly stated in the draft Bill,
believe it or not ladies and gentlemen this draft bill seeks to take the
broadcast fees set at 3% of our gross earnings and give it to GTV/GBC to
upgrade their technical and other capabilities, but GTV/GBC will still be
allowed to enter the market place and compete with private broadcasters for the
limited advertising dollar. In other words this bill seeks to force the private
broadcasters to buy the rope and present it to GTV/GBC with which those
entities will hang them. Only people trained in the USSR or not at all could come up with this nonsense.
8. The Bi-partisan committee gave the
National Broadcasting Authority the power to make regulations, set fees and
terms of licenses etc., the Bill on the other hand gives those powers to the Minister.
9. The questions of standards which have
in fact not been addressed in the Bill should be laid out in the clearest
possible terms by the authority and there will be the need for the Authority to
inform and educate the broadcasters on what their obligations are. No such
provisions are contained in the Bill.
10. Payment and recovery of fees demanding
a 3% of gross earnings never formed any part of the joint committee's agreements;
in fact the joint committee was very specific in deciding and recommending that
no undue financial burden should be imposed on licensees.
What we have here is not an autonomous
and independent Broadcast Authority, it is a creature of the Minister of Communications,
it incredibly seeks to extort monies from the private broadcasters, to
subsidize GTV/GBC and seeks to concentrate broadcasting power in the hands of loyal
PPP comrades to silence the rest of us, it also has conditions for granting
licenses which are vague, open to abuse and unacceptable according to the GHRA,
it contravenes every Human rights covenant this country has ever signed, and is
in complete conflict with what the bipartisan board agreed to during the dialog.
It also conflicts with what Jagdeo and Corbin signed as agreements in the
So much for decency and democracy. The
thing should be thrown in the garbage along with the person who wrote it.