– GNBA recorded 129 infractions against TV, radio stations in the last 4 months
– majority a fundamental breach of the Broadcasting Act
– chairman warns of tough actions against errant broadcasters
By Svetlana Marshall
WARNING that errant broadcasters will face the full force of the law, Chairman of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA), Leslie Sobers, said the listening public is growing tired of the distasteful content aired by some operators. Between August 2019 and November 2019, GNBA recorded a total of 129 infractions on the local airwaves – majority a fundamental breach of the Broadcast Licence and the Broadcasting Act.
In his address during GNBA’s fifth Stakeholder Engagement at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on Wednesday, Sobers said despite the efforts of the broadcasting authority to prevent infractions, delinquent broadcasters continue to breach the Broadcasting Act.
Broadcasters are prohibited from airing certain types of material, including indecent language, sexually suggestive acts, gruesome or violent scenes, during certain periods of the day, particularly prime time. Notwithstanding restrictions, many broadcasters continue to be in violation of this.
Though not scientifically assessed, Sobers said reactions from the listening public suggest that broadcasters are not fully aware of their audience’s listening and viewing preference. “I personally have received several complaints from persons of all walks of life against certain broadcasters. The areas of concern were those broadcasters’ departure from good taste, their apparent penchant for airing lewd music, imitating foreign accents, DJ’s sounding like ‘wanna be’ Jamaicans, announcers sounding like ‘wanna be’ Americans, nudity, vulgar language and the list goes on,” the GNBA Chairman told the broadcasters present.
GNBA, he disclosed, will be conducting audience surveys to have a better understanding of their preference. The results will be made public.
“Sponsors love numbers and would want to know who has wider listenership and viewership, and whose programming is preferred and whose attract public angst or perturbation,” Sobers told the broadcasters. He said by continually breaching the Act, errant broadcasters are casting doubt as to their ability and fitness to be holders of Broadcasters Licences.
In painting a vivid picture of the situation, Chair of the Monitoring and Compliance Committee Jocelyne Josiah pointed out that the number of infractions jumped from 18 in August to 41 in October. The number of infractions decreased by 10 in November but the situation, she said, is a cause for concern.
The Monitoring and Compliance Department uses colour codes to categorise infractions. Yellow represents minor infractions which can be easily rectified; Orange, infraction with significant impact and effect and which is not easily rectifiable; and Red, fundamental breach of the Broadcast Licence, the Broadcasting Act, the Amendment or any combination.
Josiah explained that of the 18 infractions recorded in August, 10 were in the red following an assessment of the content aired on television and radio. In September, a total of 39 infractions were recorded – 20 of which were in the red, seven in the orange and 12 in yellow. In October 2019, the number of infractions jumped to 41 with 19 in the red. For the 31 infractions recorded in November, 25 were in the red.
Under the Broadcasting Act of 2011, GNBA is empowered to implement a number of sanctions to infringing broadcasters, ranging from fines to suspension of broadcasting licences. Red infractions attract a fine of $50,000-$100,000, while orange infractions range $25,000-$50,000 and yellow entails fines between $10,000-$25,000. Broadcasters can also be fined $50,000 for failure to provide a recording when ordered to do so. Repeat offenders are liable for suspension or revocation of licences.
Josiah noted that the infractions included offensive references to opponents, offensive language and failure to protect children under 18 among others. In support of her case, the Chair of the Monitoring and Compliance Committee played a video clip comprising of several infractions. News items, talks shows, radio programmes and even movies shown by MTV, HGPTV (Nightly News), HBTV Channel 9, CNS Channel six, Hits and Jam, Freedom Radio, Keystone Solution (107.1) were laced with profanities, graphic imagines, and unsubstantiated statements targeting the People’s National Congress/Reform, the People’s Progressive Party and the opposition leader.
Josiah challenged the broadcasters present to be responsible in their actions and abide by the rules, regulations and laws governing the airwaves.
On another note, the GNBA Chairman disclosed that the authority had cause to take legal action against some delinquent broadcasters and at least one operative bent on illegally using prohibited frequencies. “Frequencies are allocated to separate sectors e.g the military, maritime, aviation, telecommunications operate on specially-assigned bands and frequencies. Radio and television also have their own assigned bands and frequencies so that a broadcaster cannot expect to be allowed to unlawfully utilise frequencies assigned to other sectors,” Sobers explained. He warned that once GNBA becomes aware of such an endeavor, it would revoke that broadcaster’s licence or refuse to issue any future licence.
The GNBA Chair reminded the broadcasters that their 2018 Audited Financial Reports, their Certificates of Good Standing and their Spectrum Fees are prerequisites for the issuance of Broadcasting Licences for 2020.
The National Communications Network (NCN), MTV, HGPTV, News Talk Guyana, CNS Channel six, MAAD 97.5FM, Linden Wireless Communication Network and IRadio Network were among the broadcasters represented during Wednesday’s engagement. Communication Specialist, Dr. Rovin Deodat; Attorney-at-Law, Joel Edmond; Business Entrepreneur, Aretha Campbell; and Director of Telecommunications Agency, Andre Griffith, were among the GNBA’s Board Members present.