Broadcast Authority to let citizens monitor radio, TV content

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With another general election expected shortly and an increase in broadcast agencies, the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) will begin a Citizens Monitoring Programme.

The programme, which will be rolled out in September, will grant citizens the opportunity to report their concerns to the GNBA.

At a stakeholders engagement on Tuesday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, GNBA Board member, Dr Rovin Deodat explained that “the intention is to have these media monitors drawn from different age groups, communities and even organisations across the country under the tutelage and guidance of GNBA.”

The primary focus will be on the broadcast of obscene, lewd and distasteful language but as the country heads to another general and regional elections, any language which incites violence, racism or is against the broadcasting act will be flagged.

Dr Deodat said citizens oftentimes telephone the authority “in the most irate fashion” to complain about programmes and as such, he believes they should assist in curbing the issue.

The GNBA Board member pointed out that balance and fairness in broadcasting, as mandated by the law, is of utmost importance.

A section of the gathering at the Stakeholders engagement

“In other words, don’t allow your agenda to take you overboard because you will drown,” he said.

Dr Deodat pointed out that in most cases, broadcasters face the law for allowing comments which degrade another person to be aired without objection.

The agency has a small core of monitors but he said it is not sufficient.

Chairman of the GNBA, Leslie Sobers told the media that if there is need to hire more staff to deal with the magnitude of complaints, this will be done.

He said the agency will be partnering with the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) and Guyana Elections Commission’s media monitoring unit to address the airing of sensitive content.

“Our country will be moving into a period that has its own excitement and during this time, there should be no misuse of the airwaves. Be assured that defiance and violations will be treated appropriately,” Sobers said.

Chairman of the GNBA, Leslie Sobers

Recently, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said broadcasters are being chastised for airing his weekly press conferences, however, Sobers explained that the GNBA has to ensure that derogatory remarks are not played on-air at all costs.

He said the GNBA does not have the power to sanction the person making the remarks and therefore, they have to sanction the hosts or broadcasters.

The GNBA is also engaging a regional body which has the capacity to monitor the local airwaves 24/7.

There are some instances where press conferences are broadcast live and according to the Chairman said systems must be put in place to edit certain remarks.

He pointed to delayed broadcast as one method which should be examined.

The GNBA is also considering the issuance of directives to broadcasters to assist with compliance.

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