…when asked to comment, said ‘room was small’
PEOPLE’s Progressive Party-nominated director on the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority, Bibi Shadick, did not make any objections to the amendments to the Broadcast Bill when Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo met with the board of that entity last week. And some directors are questioning whether she was coerced into sending out a statement last Friday disassociating herself from the bill, which was passed by the National Assembly earlier this month.
Speaking to the Guyana Chronicle under conditions of anonymity, a director of the GNBA said that following Prime Minister Nagamootoo’s remarks at the meeting held last week Wednesday, all members were asked to give their comments. “The prime minister actually started with Shadick. She was asked for her comments, she said that she had nothing to say, except that the conference room was small,” the director related. The director added that a lengthy discussion then ensued with member Jocelyn Josiah via Skype. “No dissent was expressed by anyone, including Member Shadick. She gracefully posed for photos.
It is most disturbing that she should issue opposition as an after-thought. She is a lawyer of some vintage in private practice and she would understand the importance of response at the earliest possible opportunity. All fair-minded Guyanese would wonder why she chose now to express dissent,” the director expressed.
Chairman of the GNBA, Attorney-at-law, Leslie Sobers, following the PM’s address last week used the opportunity to assure him that the 60 minutes airtime, daily, for public service programmes was not unreasonable. “I want to assure you PM that our 60 minutes advice is not unreasonable. In Barbados, their legislation dictates one second for every broadcast minute to be allocated to PSAs, and when you accumulate it, it works out to about two hours per day. In Trinidad and Tobago, their authority asks for 14 hours per week…on average that amounts to two hours per day as well,” Sobers pointed out.
He emphasised that the GNBA is not unreasonable in its request. Board Director, Dr. Rovin Deodat, expressed similar sentiments as the prime minister, noting that it is not just the Government that will have the opportunity to broadcast PSAs.
In a missive sent out to the media by the PPP Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall, Shadick said she does not “back the broadcasting bill.” “I was appointed to the board after a delay of more than two months, during which time the other members were involved in drafting recommendations for regulations to the Broadcasting Act 2011, which recommendations the prime minister claims he used as the basis for the ‘infamous’ amendments to the Act.
Personally, I consider the amendments to be unconstitutional and as a member of the Board I was not involved in making any recommendations. In fact, it is my belief that my appointment to the Board was deliberately delayed for the period during which the recommendations were being drafted. At Wednesday’s meeting which the prime minister attended, the Board was not asked to, nor did it express its “backing” for the amendments to the Broadcast Bill.”
President David Granger weighing in on the subject on Wednesday, asked critics of the bill to be more aware of the peculiar nature of Guyana and the need to ensure that all communities have access to information. He said the Bill does not prevent any media outlet from fulfilling its constitutional obligations and the government has an obligation to ensure, via the media, that the entire country is aware of what is going on. Acknowledging that there are some aspects of the Bill that have caused concern, the Head of State told media operatives Wednesday at State House that a lot of thought went into crafting the bill.
He noted that Cabinet’s support of the Bill was the reason government went to parliament. “Guyana is a very thinly populated country and the population density is about a few persons per square kilometre and most of the media houses are concentrated on the coastland and in the city of Georgetown, so there are huge areas of our country without media coverage,” President Granger explained.
“We need to ensure that we walk on two legs and the private media have my support and I will always support freedom of communication, but we have an obligation to ensure that all corners of the country receive public information about what is taking place in terms of public health, public infrastructure and public security.” He said if the population is unaware of what is happening in certain sections of Guyana because the media is concentrated in Georgetown, there will be a deficit in the flow of information.