Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Broadcast Regulations
(Aired 4 July 2007)

  Just after the 2001 elections and after the disturbances which brought the PPP to the bargaining table for the dialog with Desmond Hoyte, there was set up a broadcast committee which was called the Bipartisan Board on Broadcasting, this board which was comprised senior functionaries from the PPP and the PNC made some fundamental decisions about the broadcast industry in Guyana and about the monopoly of radio since Desmond Hoyte's specific demand to Mr. Jagdeo was  "the immediate end to the political monopoly of radio and the introduction of independent management of GTV, GBC, the state owned newspaper and the national frequency management unit [NFMU]."

   Tonight I would like to speak about the Broadcast Authority and what the bipartisan board decided would be its function, I am forced to do this since there are quite a few people out there who are continually and deliberately misrepresenting the situation to the public.

  The first misrepresentation by this government has to do with Cable Franchises; ladies and gentlemen cable has nothing to do with Broadcasting and therefore has nothing to do with the Broadcasting Authority when formed. For example if this were so then GT&T would also reasonably come under the Broadcast Authority since the act that govern telephone are the same as those which are applicable to Cable Television, viewed this way the ridiculous nature of this situation becomes immediately apparent and only a total moron would require that cable TV be regulated by a Broadcast Authority.

   A cable system establishes an agreement, usually in writing, between the subscriber and the person providing the cable signal and this private agreement has nothing to do with any authority, it is a personal matter and by taking the cable service the subscriber agrees to abide by its rules and terms. 

  We do seem to have some obscure law which requires that cable operators get a license from the government for running cable TV, this is not usual since the cable is run on the reserves of the municipalities and therefore everywhere other than this lawless and ridiculous place the municipalities get the money for the running of the cable on land that they own. In the US, for example, the Federal Communications Commission, the Broadcast Authority of the USA does not grant Cable Franchises, the municipalities do. Nor does anyone regulate cable television, For example wireless cable, such as from satellite right now as sold by the Stabroek News, will the Broadcast Authority regulate that? Of course not! And if they can't regulate that, then how can they regulate wired cable?

 A word of caution to anyone who tries to run cable in Georgetown, I will tie them up in court for 20 years until the CCJ rules on the matter, and in the process I will make sure that the rights of the municipality to ownership of their reserves are respected.

  Ladies and Gentlemen even our laws do not visualise broadcasting and cable as the same, since they are not even captured under the same acts, cable is required to be licensed under the telecommunications act and broadcasting is regulated under the wireless and telegraphy regulations act. There is no provision for the regulation of cable anywhere in our laws nor should there be, since there is this direct contract between the supplier and the receiver of the cable signal.

   Broadcasting is another matter when you broadcast a signal everyone can see it, and so there is no contract between the signal provider and specific members of the public who are looking at the signal, so from the beginning of broadcasting there have been established some rules concerning broadcasting and it is regulated in your, the public's, interest, convenience and necessity to protect you; and this General contract between the broadcaster and the public is captured in what has come to be called Broadcast Regulations.

  Not the PPP's interest, convenience and necessity ladies and Gentlemen but in your, the members of the public's, interest, convenience and necessity. Think of these three words ladies and gentlemen interest, convenience and necessity and with these words in mind you can sit at home tonight and write our Broadcast Regulations yourself. And that is the way that it should be, but the PPP do not want to regulate broadcasting on your behalf, they never have, crippled by their communist ideology, they want to control it, to control what you see and hear such as at Linden and that has been the problem all along.

  They have no right to attempt to do this in a democracy where freedom of speech is a fundamental and constitutional right and where we have signed international human rights Covenants guaranteeing our citizens these rights. They want to take the civilised people's grant aid money, but they don't want to give you the fundamental human rights that the civilised people want you to have.

   So you the public must decide what you want in your television services and therefore your regulations, and I will give a few examples so that you can start writing your own broadcast regulations, do you want to see more than, say, 14 minutes of advertising every hour? Of course not! Do you think that it is reasonable that any single AD break be longer than, say, 3 minutes? Of course not! Do you want to receive a signal which is of poor quality and which is being interfered with by some other channel? Of course not! Do you want to see a signal which is coming in so weak that every car that passes interferes with what you are seeing? Of course not! Do you want to tune in a channel which is providing you with information and entertainment and occupying a limited national resource, now remember that in the VHF band there are only channels 2,4,6,7,9,11 and 13 available and since this is so, is it reasonable that one of these stations is playing death announcements for 6 -8 hours straight in prime time? Or that two or three of the others are playing PPP propaganda? Of course not! Do you want to turn on you TV and see that someone is playing paid religious programme in prime time between 5 PM to 10 PM? of course not! Do you want to turn on your TV in prime time and see some man selling you herbal medicines? Of course not? What about nudity, profanity and morals would you prefer that certain channels which your children also tune into restrain themselves from broadcasting profanity and nudity and should they be regulated so that they do not broadcast any movie or programme which contain certain levels of nudity and profanity? Of course you would! What about some station putting up a sign telling you to stand by for 5 to 10 minutes whilst they figure out their next move? Is it reasonable and in your convenience for this to happen? Of course not! Is it reasonable that all the channels in Georgetown be owned by Indo Guyanese only or Afro Guyanese only, and their programming present little entertainment for other races? Of course not! Ownership and commitment to programming should be governed by the ethnic composition of the area in which the broadcast takes place, similarly would the programming for a rural broadcast at Abary or Corentyne for example be required to have the same content as a station occupying the spectrum in Georgetown? Of course not! The Abary or Corentyne station must of necessity have far more Indian programming than one for say Georgetown. Do you think that channels should publish their coverage area and their exact advertising rates in a public place annually? Of course you do! And so it goes on, protections for you the public to guarantee your interest, convenience and necessity and not what Sam Hinds wants you to see. Not in this day and not in this age!

   So the Broadcast Authority should not regulate what is said against the government, and none of you should want your broadcasters to be so bound by onerous legislation controlled by an unfriendly government and Broadcast Authority to the extent that they are constrained by fear to express their views without restraint or frontiers, or for them to be forced by an unfriendly Broadcast Authority to have the same views, since in a plural society it is unreasonable to expect that anything can be said on TV that will not offend someone, but it is that broadmindedness and tolerance which is at the very heart of democracy and free speech. Always remembering that no one should use freedom of speech to excite or to defame any person or to cause public mischief or disorder. These are covered under the international protocols we signed concerning free speech more than 30 years ago.

   And let me say this no Broadcaster in his right mind would consistently say derogatory things about a significant religious or ethnic group in the society and hope to survive on advertising. It is inevitable that the bottom line will determine how he will operate and the courts are there to decide if the broadcaster is guilty of a libel, defamation or inciting.

   To attempt to give these powers to the Broadcast Authority to make these determinations may be a violation of the constitution, but the PPP have demonstrated a total contempt for our constitution; as bad as it is, it does not give them enough power and so they are abusing Burnham's constitution more than Burnham did. Sooner than later ladies and gentlemen this 1980 constitution will have to go, it is not conducive to democracy and with it we will never progress.  

   And the PPP would be well advised to stop abusing it since the consequences could be too terrible to contemplate!

   A major cause for concern has been Sam Hinds' insistence that the NFMU in the context of a Broadcasting Authority should continue to be an entity within itself, and not as an enforcement arm of the Broadcast Authority when formed, this leaves the NFMU completely under PPP political control and creates a dangerous impediment to free speech since it can be used to victimise a broadcaster if he expresses his views fearlessly.

   So as far as Broadcasting is concerned, the NFMU must only act through the Broadcast Authority in an advisory capacity as Desmond Hoyte wanted.

   Finally All members of the Broadcast Authority must be appointed by a 2/3 vote of the Parliament.