Chairman of the Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) Leonard Craig believes more than 95 per cent of the holders of Television Broadcast Licences are not fulfilling their legal obligations as is prescribed by the Broadcast Act.
According to an article in today’s Guyana Times, Craig is of the view that very few operators are adhering to the laws, including those governing the payment of the fees.
GNBA Chairman Leonard Craig
He explained that TV station operators are required to pay $2.5 million as an annual fee or 3.5 per cent of their gross annual earnings, whichever is greater.
Craig explained that when fees are paid, operators are required to submit an audited annual financial statement, so that the GNBA can determine if the fees paid are the correct amount. He noted, however, that many of the operators are not providing the necessary information.
“Almost all the operators in Guyana are delinquent in one way or the other. Either they have not paid the $2.5 million or they have not submitted their audited financial statement as is required by law and not until they would have done so can we determine whether they are compliant or not,” the report quoted Craig as saying.
When asked who are the delinquent operators, Craig decline to reveal the names, explaining that the Board has taken a decision not to name defaulters or those who are complying, but restated that if there are any who are complying, that number will be every low.
AMNESTY vs NEW RATES
Meanwhile, Craig made it clear that the proposed new rates will not be retroactive, and therefore all outstanding amounts will be calculated at the current rate of $2.5 million or 3.5 per cent the gross annual income.
“We are saying that the law that existed up to December 3, 2015, as of that date, those amounts are due as payable so that is the fee we want to sit down with operators and work out a payment plan,” he explained, adding that “up to December 31, 2015 what is due and payable is legally due and payable and we are going after it.”
The GNBA Chairman however noted that the Authority is not going after the outstanding amount with any hard and fast position, but is leaving the door open for negotiation so that a workable payment plan could be derived.
“We want to renegotiate with people and we want to give discounts and so on, but we want people to come and deal with us in a straight manner,” Craig added.
He also explained that the possibility exists that some operators may benefit from “forgiveness” however that will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
The GNBA said some $121 million in licensing fees are owed by delinquent operators, dating back as far as 2013.
Craig, at a recent press conference, said a new fee structure for radio and television licences using a zoning system has been recommended by the GNBA Board.
Reading from a prepared statement, he said that a new commercial zoning system is recommended – namely primary, secondary and tertiary zones, with a special category for community stations.
He said that a new fee of $1.2 million on per annum is proposed for the Primary Zone (Region Four, Georgetown and environs); $600,000 for the Secondary Zone (Berbice, Bartica and Essequibo); $300,000 for the Tertiary Zone (Linden, Lethem, Mabaruma); and Community TV Stations $150,000.
For radio licence fees, for the Primary Zone (Georgetown and environs), the fee recommended is $2.5 million per annum (current rate); Secondary Zone (Berbice, Bartica and Essequibo), $1.25 million; and the Tertiary Zone (Linden), $625,000 while $312,500 is the fee for Community Radio Stations.