On 13th June 2013 the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority wrote Television Broadcasters a letter in the following terms
“The Board of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority is pleased to inform you that approval has been given for your company to be issued with a License to Broadcast via Television for the period January 1st, 2013 to December 31st, 2013.
The following fees are to be paid to the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority upon which your License for 2013 will be issued.
(1) Use of Channel – $ 320,000
(2) License Fee – $ 2,500,000”
The License Fee of $2,500,000 is a massive increase from the sum of $240,000 which Television Broadcasters previously paid annually.
On 19th June 2013 the chairman of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority called a press conference and declared that the Government Cabinet had given her the rates for broadcasting and when questioned about some inconsistencies in it her response was “I am not know I just calling out what I got”.
The issue of Licensing Fees brings into sharp focus APNU’s concerns about the Broadcast Act No 13 of 2011 and some of its provisions which offend freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 146 of the Guyana Constitution.
The clear direction of the Government Cabinet in the affairs of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority makes the authority less than Independent and Autonomous as it intended to be.
Television stations that are perceived to be sympathetic to the views expressed by the Opposition will be targeted in this technique of fees manipulation to make it less profitable to operate and eventually put them out of business.
In an environment where advertising dollars is a scarce commodity, where state owned media competes for the same advertising dollar as the private broadcast media, where advertisers have expressed fear of victimization when they advertise on certain TV stations, the time when the TV stations can be faced with closure cannot be far off.
The Broadcast Act 13 of 2011 which gives the President the power to appoint 6 of the 7 members of the authority without consultation permits a level of arbitrariness and interference by Government.
A Partnership for National Unity will soon table deep amendments to this act and in the meantime call on the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority to meet with the Television Broadcasters and rationally review the Licensing Fee.
The imposition by the Government of $2,500,000 must be rejected.