A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) continues to receive expressions of concern from broadcasters and other stakeholders on the broadcasting legislation, more so since the publication in the press of a Public Notice signed by Minister of Information, President Donald Ramotar, for existing broadcasters to apply for a license for the continuation of their service by the 27th September 2012 under the contested Broadcasting Act of 2011.
APNU is already on public record that it plans to table amendments to the broadcast legislation immediately after the end of the Parliamentary Recess on 10th October 2012. This will be in line with our commitment to uphold the letter and spirit of the recommendations of the 2001 Report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting and State Media Boards.
Even with the legislation in its current form, the government is ill-advised and insensitive to the concerns of broadcasters to force them to apply for a license when the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) is yet to be appointed, much less to have met to discuss its own modus operandi.
Broadcasters, therefore, have little idea how and where to apply. More critically, they are completely in the dark with regards to any new terms and conditions that may be imposed on their operations.
APNU fully supports the growing call for fairness, impartiality and predictability in the execution of broadcasting legislation in Guyana. This can only be achieved by a properly revised broadcasting law and a suitably-constituted and autonomous broadcasting authority.
APNU strongly advises the Government to withdraw the Public Notice forthwith. Instead, we recommend the following urgent course of action:
- Initiate tripartite/interparty or National Assembly discussions to amend the Broadcasting Act 2011. In particular, the discussions should centre on (i) a formula for the composition of the GNBA in line with the recommendation of the 2001 report of the joint committee on broadcasting, (ii) the removal of provisions that infringe the right of freedom of speech of broadcasters and others, (iii) clarification of the powers of the Minister to instruct the GNBA, and (iv) clarification of the role of the NFMU.
- Appoint a reconstituted GNBA in line with the agreed new formula.
- Provide adequate resources for the GNBA to allow it to begin the work to fulfill its mandate in a professional and autonomous manner, characterized by broad consultations and consensus.
- The continuation of existing broadcasting licenses, pending the completion of preparatory work by the GNBA.
APNU is convinced that with a display of good faith and political maturity by the government, the present anxiety and uncertainty within the broadcasting community could be quickly allayed.
It is not anticipated that the above recommendations would cause any undue delay in the licensing of both existing and new broadcasters.