By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Alliance For Change (AFC) front bencher Catherine Hughes says the money set aside for the National Communications Network (NCN) and the Government Information Agency (GINA) is to promote the interest of the government and in this democracy her Party will not support such funding.
Budget 2014 sets aside $81M for NCN and $139M for the GINA, but according to Hughes that is a lot of tax dollars for ‘bare talks’.
“Not only is it ‘bare talks’ but it is only ‘PPP talks’. I say this because it seems the only group that can secure airtime on NCN, is the government.”
The AFC MP pointed out that while the government plans to spend $220M on ‘self-aggrandizement’, the main agency for attracting investment to this country – the Guyana Office for Investment – received $ 119,781M, approximately 20 million less than GINA.
“Therein lays the problem. How can this house be asked to approve $220 million for NCN and GINA when we have waited patiently for two years to see some change in the mandate and focus of these entities?” Hughes questioned.
She added, “If they operate as public service broadcasting entities then yes, the public will benefit and we will approve the use of the public’s money for this use. But, if they remain propaganda agencies of the PPP then we say no problem, let the PPP pay for this.”
Hughes said at a bare minimum, “NCN does not even offer the Opposition – who do represent a section of our population – a right of reply which is recognized internationally as fundamental.”
On a separate note she said “Now, in addition to the $220 million that the government has allocated to blow its own trumpet, another $43.2 million will be paid as fees at the rate of $3.6 million per month to TVG for services provided for the Learning Channel.”
She posited that while the Government is providing $81 million to NCN, none of this money is used to broadcast learning material.
“I know the government will counter and claim that NCN lacks the capacity to carry the Learning Channel but at the same time they must explain why the investment was not made. Why after spending billions of tax payer’s money over the last 22 years, NCN does not have the capacity to carry the Learning Channel.”
Hughes told the House that the AFC is not vengeful when it comes to NCN but it has to do with the abuse of a public entity for partisan benefit.
She added “on this issue I would like to close with the statements of the Minister of Home Affairs, the Honourable Clement Rohee … I quote: all media houses have a duty to be responsible in providing balanced coverage of the political views. Minister Rohee…you are absolutely correct…and I would ask you to explain this concept to your friends at GINA and NCN.”
She concluded that since the AFC can only approve or disapprove, the Party hopes that the Minister of Finance will come again with revisions based the suggestions raised.