-Chair­man calls for lift in stan­dards

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS -

said there was ev­i­dence of a breach of good taste and de­cency, through the broad­cast of obscene lan­guage in songs and au­dio­vi­sual con­tent dur­ing prime­time hours.

Fol­low­ing those pre­lim­i­nary hear­ings, two of the six broad­cast­ers were re­ferred to the GNBA’s Gov­ern­ing Board for for­mal hear­ings, with ap­pro­pri­ate sanc­tions.

In its press re­lease, the Author­ity said it stands vig­or­ously against fun­da­men­tal breaches of the Broad­cast­ing leg­is­la­tion as its aim is to en­sure the na­tional air­waves are re­flec­tive of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional best prac­tices in broad­cast­ing, with due sen­si­tiv­ity to those vul­ner­a­ble groups in our so­ci­ety and more so, ad­her­ence to our le­gal and so­cial obli­ga­tions.

“The author­ity’s SIC is poised to de­liver on its man­date, and will con­tinue to ad­dress these mat­ters, in an as­sid­u­ous man­ner. It is im­por­tant to note that the power is vested in the author­ity, through the Broad­cast­ing Act of 2011, to sus­pend or can­cel broad­cast li­cences, as the author­ity deems ap­pro­pri­ate, fol­low­ing the nec­es­sary in­quiries,” the re­lease added.

Speak­ing to Stabroek News at his Lamaha Street of­fice, Sobers in­formed that the Board had taken a de­ci­sion that for the time be­ing, the iden­ti­ties of those broad­cast­ers will be with­held.

“We still owe some duty of care to our broad­cast­ers,” he said.

Speak­ing specif­i­cally about the in­frac­tions com­mit­ted, Sobers said that the bulk in­volves mu­sic played and the qual­ity of the dis­course on the air­waves. How­ever, he added that the low qual­ity was ap­pli­ca­ble to ra­dio and tele­vi­sion. The GNBA also mon­i­tors ca­ble.

He re­counted hear­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent on a ra­dio pro­gramme where two an­nounc­ers were hav­ing their “own lit­tle pri­vate talk and they are obliv­i­ous to the fact that they are on na­tional ra­dio.” He said the “chit chat” dur­ing that pro­gramme was com­ple­mented with con­tin­u­ous suck­ing of teeth in one in­stance. “It was so mean­ing­less; it added no value to the Guyanese so­ci­ety. It taught you noth­ing… It was small talk and it was non­sense,” he said be­fore point­ing out that en­ter­tain­ment and jokes on some pro­grammes do have ed­u­ca­tional value.

‘Sub­stan­dard con­tent’

In­form­ing that there are sec­tions of the Broad­cast­ing Act which speak to good taste, Sobers re­it­er­ated that there is a lot of mu­sic be­ing played as well as call-in shows and talk shows where the con­tent is obscene and in­ap­pro­pri­ate and goes against “de­cency and good taste.”

He said the Author­ity’s Mon­i­tor­ing Depart­ment would lis­ten and pick up the obscene lan­guage and flag those pro­grammes. He showed Stabroek News three discs with copies of pro­grammes which

which were flagged for vi­o­la­tions. The iden­ti­ties of those pro­grammes were not dis­closed but said that the broad­caster would have pro­vided copies of the pro­gramme fol­low­ing a re­quest from the author­ity.

Sobers made it clear that the GNBA would note a prob­lem only with the con­tent of the pro­gramme, while adding that if a guest makes an in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ment then that is the is­sue that would be dealt with.

He pointed out that broad­cast­ing goes all over the world and while the au­di­ence has vary­ing tastes, there is noth­ing that says one must ac­cept “sub­stan­dard” con­tent.

Sobers pointed out that he has trav­eled to a num­ber of coun­tries and af­ter lis­ten­ing to broad­casts there, it is clear that Guyana has a far way to go. He sin­gled out Ja­maica, where he says the pro­grammes are above par and have suitable con­tent for all of the lis­ten­ing pub­lic.

He said if a broad­caster goes be­fore the SIC nu­mer­ous times then all of that “will be added up” and sent to the Gov­ern­ing Board for a for­mal hear­ing. Charges, he said, will be laid and the er­rant broad­caster could choose to be ac­com­pa­nied by an at­tor­ney.

Ac­cord­ing to Sobers, since the life of the Board be­gan, sev­eral con­sul­ta­tions were held with broad­cast­ers and the re­sponse has been en­cour­ag­ing. He said the thrust of those en­gage­ments is to en­cour­age broad­cast­ers to act in keep­ing with the law.

He said the Author­ity is con­tem­plat­ing ac­cred­ited sem­i­nars, with as­sis­tance from rel­e­vant in­ter­na­tional agen­cies. GNBA, he says, want to im­prove the broad­cast­ers’ per­cep­tions of what is re­quired of them, what is good taste and de­cency and then trust that they would present Guyana in a good light.

Mean­while, Sobers in­formed that the en­tity plans to con­duct a poll in which per­sons would iden­tify the sta­tion or pro­grammes they lis­ten to and the ones they pay no at­ten­tion to. The find­ings, he said, will be made pub­lic.

“We be­lieve it is time we con­sult with our Guyanese, our lis­ten­ers and view­er­ship through sur­veys and polls to find out what are the peo­ple’s re­ac­tion to some of the things we are hear­ing on air be­cause I can tell you there are some pro­grammes that lend noth­ing to the qual­ity of life, to the de­vel­op­ment of our cit­i­zenry,” he stressed.

He said that when the data is pub­lished, spon­sors would de­cide whether they would con­tinue to back cer­tain pro­grammes.

“The mar­ket will deal with it be­cause if you have a pro­gramme on and it is given prime time and the na­tion says, ‘I don’t like that’…it makes no sense. The spon­sors... will know my prod­uct is not go­ing to get the lis­ten­er­ship be­cause peo­ple will start switch­ing off from that pro­gramme,” he said.

Les­lie Sobers

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