PM pressing broadcast committee for advice
Stabroek News
May 29, 2002

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Prime Minister Sam Hinds is pressing the Advisory Committee on Broadcasting (ACB) to offer him advice on how the airing of the tape by escaped prisoner, Andrew Douglas on May 9 and 10, should be handled.

VCT Channel 28 and WRHM 7 aired the tape on May 9, and NBTV 9 aired it on May 10.

Prime Minister Hinds told Stabroek News that he had reiterated his request that the committee should offer him some advice when he met its members recently. The members of the three-member committee are chairman, Pat Dial who lectures at the University of Guyana, with former Guyana Broadcasting Corporation chief engineer Ron Case and communications consultant, Carlton James, as the other members.

The Prime Minister, who has ministerial responsibility for communications, met the committee after it had issued a statement indicating its decision not to rule on the appropriateness of the broadcast of the tape.

The Prime Minister disclosed that at the meeting the committee had restated its preference for working with the stations that aired the tape to set acceptable standards, with which all the stations would comply. However, he said, he reiterated his belief that they were capable of offering him some advice on the issue, given the sources that nominated them and the numerous letters in the newspapers calling for the committee to act. Under the law, the committee is mandated to advise the PM on whether a breach has occurred and may go as far as recommending the suspension of a station's licence.

Dial told Stabroek News last week that the committee had met Prime Minister Hinds at his request and had restated its intention not to rule on the issue.

Prime Minister Hinds and other government officials have been clamouring for the ACB to recommend to him what course of action should be taken against the stations that aired the tape. He had also urged members of the public that contacted him about the broadcast to complain to the ACB recommending that action be taken. Since then one of the stations, VCT Channel 28, has suspended a staff member involved in airing the tape for doing so without first giving the police an opportunity to respond.

The Prime Minister told Stabroek News last week that he would ask the ACB to review its decision not to rule on the tape.

The joint committee on radio monopoly and non-partisan boards recommended the establishment of the ACB and it was set up on November 15, 2001 as a result of a memorandum of understanding signed between President Bharrat Jagdeo and PNC/R leader Desmond Hoyte.

Its tenure will expire upon the establishment of the Broadcast Authority that new broadcast legislation, expected to be enacted later this year, will create.

A pamphlet issued by the ACB about its functions, lists these as advising the minister on the issuance, suspension and/or termination of television broadcasting station licences (including termination of unlicensed broadcasts); monitoring the adherence to or breach of broadcast standards relating to content by licencees; receiving and investigating public opinion or complaints on broadcast standards; maintaining a working relationship with such bodies as are established by the industry to enforce standards; advising on appropriate action in cases of violations of the conditions of the licence after due process of investigation; and performing any other duties the responsible minister may ask it to assume within the confines of these regulations and the Act.