Two options posed on frequency management unit
Stabroek News
September 10, 2002

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The Joint Committee on Broadcasting has agreed on two options that the government should consider in determining the role of the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU).

The implementation of the recommendations contained in the committee's report are among the decisions made during the dialogue process between President Bharrat Jagdeo and PNC/R leader, Desmond Hoyte. The two leaders have since accepted the report. The committee had reached consensus on all of its recommendations save that relating to the NFMU.

President Jagdeo has said that the recommendations for the legislation that would create the National Broadcasting Authority had been passed to the Attorney General's Chambers for drafting. Stabroek News has been unable to verify the stage of preparation of the legislation. Attorney General Doodnauth Singh is out of the country and efforts to contact the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon were fruitless. Presidential Adviser, Kellawan Lall together with Dr Luncheon and Information Liaison to the President, Robert Persaud, who is presently out of the country, supervise the state media on behalf of the President who has portfolio responsibility for information.

Meanwhile, the government has made no announcement about ending the monopoly of the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation even though the committee agreed that while the state media have a special role to play in national development, the monopoly of state radio should be removed and the radio spectrum opened to other licensees where technically and otherwise possible. Stabroek News understands that the passage of the new broadcast legislation will herald the ending of the radio monopoly. Lall agrees.

Another recommendation of the committee was the way in which the boards for the state media entities should be constituted. However, while the committee was still engaged in its work, the government reconstituted the boards.

Stabroek News understands that no time frame was given for the implementation of this decision but Sherwood Lowe, a member of the committee, says that it was the understanding that the recommendations would have been implemented as a matter of urgency given the context in which the committee was created.

The committee has recommended a workers' representative; a representative of the University of Guyana; not less than two nor more than three members nominated by the Leader of the Opposition after consultation with the other opposition parties; a representative of the Consumers' Association and not less than three nor more than four members nominated by the President with the general managers of the individual entities as ex officio members of the boards.

The committee also re-commended that the persons nominated by the President and the Leader of the Opposition should be able, collectively and individually, to discharge their responsibilities to the best of their professional abilities and in the public interest. It recommended too that care and attention should be given to gender balance in the selection of persons to sit on the boards.

Another of the committee's recommendation is access to the state media by opposition parties. Among its comments on the state media, the committee said that it is: "to provide important news and public affairs programming which meets the highest standards of journalism, including fair and unbiased coverage, impartiality and balance."

Lall says that he believes that the boards could be re-constituted as recommended by the committee when their life comes to an end at year-end.

The PNC/R has complained about the government's use of the state media for partisan purposes and its disregard for the agreement reached on the depoliticisation of the public service, pointing to the activities of Dr Prem Misir, head of the Guyana Information Agency and PPP/C central committee member and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Hydar Ally.

Stabroek News was also unable to contact Luncheon or Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Gail Teixeira who chaired the committee, for a comment. Lall however feels that once the new boards are in place as recommended by the committee that arrangements would be made for such access.