Draft legislation…can lodge complaints with GNBA – ChairmanLocal broadcasters – both private and public – will now be compelled to air, without charge, Government’s public service announcements (PSAs) during a certain timeframe according to the draft Broadcast legislation.However, broadcast agencies which have issues with any PSA have recourse to the regulator, the Guyana National broadcasting Authority (GNBA).GNBA Chairman Leslie SobersGNBA Chairman Leslie Sobers has however dispelled any suggestion that, in arbitrating between private entities and the Government, the GNBA board may issue biased judgements. “I see no reason why it should be misconstrued that GNBA would be biased, because GNBA would not be. The people who would have a problem would be the particular ministry and agency that was requesting that the broadcasting house air a particular thing that they consider a public service announcement,” he said.Sobers said that, for example, should the Ministry of Public Infrastructure present something to a radio station or a studio for airing, and the thing involves the public interest but as far as the broadcaster is concerned it does not sound like a public service announcement nor does it look like a public service announcement, that broadcaster can approach the GNBA with a complaint.Sobers said that in arbitrating in cases of this nature, the GNBA would adhere to a strict understanding of what constitutes a public service announcement (PSA).“We would now have to examine whether the content of the particular agency’s (broadcast request) really and truly falls under a public service announcement (PSA). And if it does not, we will advise (the Ministry or agency) that they have to pay (to have the announcement broadcasted). And if (the PSA is really a PSA), then we will advise the studio that this really is a public service announcement.”The GNBA is appointed by the President, but, by statute, one member of the board must be nominated by the political opposition.According to the Broadcasting Act of 2011 Section 18, 1 (f), the GNBA can “require licensees to carry information on any programmes issued by the Civil Defence Commission, the Guyana Police Force, Guyana Fire Service and/or health services, and certain other programmes as public information deemed appropriate and necessary in terms of national security, emergency, and disaster, as a public service at no cost.”The legislation also stipulates that the GNBA can “require licensees to carry a certain percentage of public service broadcast, or development support broadcast, as public information deemed appropriate as a public service at no cost.”According to Sobers, this regulation would apply to radio and television stations, as well as cable service providers. This, he said, would basically mean anyone with a broadcasting licence.DraftAccording to reports in the state media, the new draft legislation being prepared would see broadcast agencies being mandated to broadcast public service programmes for a total of up to one hour daily. Broadcast agencies will be airing these public service programmes free of cost and as requested by the Government between the hours of 06:00am and 10:00pm (6:00hrs and 22:00hrs).It is also stated that the GNBA reserves the right to direct a broadcasting agency to broadcast emergency notices or disaster warnings for any length of time, and regularly during peak or prime advertising time periods, depending on the nature of the emergency and having regard to public safety.A broadcaster has the right to file a complaint with the GNBA within 24 hours of being asked to broadcast a programme free of cost if, in the agency’s judgment, it is not considered a public service broadcast programme.The GNBA, according to the draft provisos, “shall investigate and determine a complaint, and issue a ruling that the programme can be reasonably considered a public service broadcast programme, and direct the broadcasting agency to air the programme free of cost”.Further, the broadcaster can “be granted an interim order to broadcast the announcement as a public service broadcast programme; and where the programme is not so considered, as provided in Section 9 (a) above, the GNBA can order payment of regular programme cost for broadcasting the said programme.”But there is also a warning: Provision is made for sanctions to be levied on any broadcaster the GNBA finds to have “arbitrarily refused” to broadcast a public service broadcast programme without lodging a complaint. The GNBA can, after deliberation, deem that broadcaster to be in breach of his/her licence.