The Opposition group A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) wants broadcasters to reject that $2.5 Million per year licensing fee which is being instituted by the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority.
A few weeks back, the GNBA announced that radio and television broadcasters would now have to pay an annual licensing fee of $2.5Million or 3% of their gross income, providing that the 3% is more than $2.5 Million. APNU Senior Member and Veteran Broadcaster Tony Vieira has described the imposition of the new fee as flawed and something that should be re-examined.
At a Thursday morning press conference at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition in Georgetown, Mr. Vieira said some broadcasters have already indicated that they intend to move to the courts over the new fee if the Broadcasting Authority does not take a second look at the fee structure.
He explained that by asking broadcasters to pay $2.5 Million if 3% of their gross earnings is not more than that figure, the GNBA is assuming that television stations and radio stations earn over $80 Million per year. He said there is no private television or radio station in Guyana that makes that kind of money and the GNBA must understand that.
The Veteran Broadcaster also said the fee structure should look at the areas where the various television stations and radio stations operate. He said earning power in the specific communities of broadcast must be examined. According to Vieira, the GNBA cannot expect a television or radio station which is only allowed to operate in a small community or a specific region to have the same earning power of those in the city or those allowed to broadcast nationally. He said the way the GNBA is currently operating, gives the impression that the authority is treating the broadcast sector as a “papi show”.
The fee structure was set by the Cabinet without any consultation with local broadcasters. The Broadcasting Authority was also shut out of that decision-making and the APNU believes that move in itself brings into question the independence of the Broadcasting Authority.
The APNU intends to make several amendments to the Broadcasting act. According to APNU Member of Parliament Joe Harmon, the Opposition would like to see a more independent Broadcasting Authority.
The current body consists of six members selected by the President without consultation and just one member who was selected by the Opposition.
Mr. Harmon said the Broadcast Act in its present forms gives too much power to the President and could be seen as arbitrary. “A Partnership for National Unity will soon table in the National Assembly, deep amendments to this act and we have been given advice that maybe we should repeal the entire act, so we are also looking at that”, Harmon said.
The Member of Parliament also told the media that it was surprising that the Chairperson of the Broadcast Authority would have no idea how the fees were set by Government and made no objections to the fees. The APNU has issued a call for the GNBA to meet with local broadcasters on the fee structure and also listen to their concerns on other issues.
A number of broadcasters have indicated that they have written to the GNBA requesting a meeting. No date has been set for any meeting.