Georgetown businesses have expressed concern about the recently passed amendments to the Broadcasting Bill and have joined local, regional and international press freedom bodies to urge President David Granger to withhold his assent.
In a statement, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) noted that the legislation includes two particularly contentious portions, namely the requirement for broadcasters to reapply for a licence once the Act comes into force and the imposition of a one-hour a day time slot for “public service programmes.”
The Chamber noted that the language used in the section containing the requirement to reapply for a license creates an abrupt process which could see some broadcasters, entrepreneurs having to wind up their operations within an unreasonable amount of time and could lead to abuse.
“Some of these entrepreneurs have invested into equipment and have bank debt securing their investment, therefore they would need a more reasonable timeframe and an appeals process that will allow for fairness in the process,” the GCCI stated.
Regarding the requirement for the free broadcast of public service programmes, the Chamber posited: “It is important to note that in the Constitution of Guyana, Freedom of Expression, which as James Madison, one of the architects of the US Constitution posited, is a free trade in ideas that is necessary for servicing the civic needs of a democratic polity, is guaranteed and Broadcasters once licensed can be seen as public trustees of the spectrum, therefore to require an intrusion, with Government chosen programming violates this notion of Freedom of Expression.”
As such, the Chamber is urging the President not to assent to the Bill in its current format, but instead refer it back to a Select Committee of the Parliament. The GCCI urged that the Prime Minister hold consultations with the stakeholders in the industry and consider amending the language in the Bill to be more amenable to their views.