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Maha Sabha denied radio licence, again


The Maha Sahba has once again been denied a radio licence. Among those granted a license is calypsonian Iwer George, who hails from Point Fortin, the home of the LNG plants. George was granted a licence for "community coverage." In the statement to the Senate yesterday, Public Administration Minister, Dr Lenny Saith, announced the names of the 13 organisations which had been granted radio licences. Ten applications were approved for "national coverage" while three were approved for "community coverage."

Among the ten are Heritage Communications Limited (which is backed by Hans Hanoomansingh); Marcel Mahabir, (one of the founders of 103fm, who is currently now on 102FM; United Cinemas Limited (the Big 6); PBCT Limited; 21st Century Arts and Entertainment Limited; VL Communications; Wonderland Entertainment Limited; Upward Trend Entertainment; InnerCity Broadcasting; and Q Corporation. The BBC World Service has also been granted a broadcast licence using a reserved frequency, on terms and conditions "to be developed," Saith said. The applications approved for community coverage are: Side Walk Radio (backed by Solomon, the musician); Kenny Phillips, record producer and Neil 'Iwer' George. Saith noted there were several applications from non-profit and non-commercial type organisations with proposed religious and inspirational programming.

However the technical team, mindful of the National Broadcast Policy that non-commerical interests should secure time only in commercial stations, as well as the limited number of available FM channels, did not recommend the grant of licences to such organisations "at this time." Instead, the team has recommended that a frequency be reserved for use by such organisations on a time sharing basis. The Maha Sabha had applied for a licence previously. It filed for judicial review arguing that the Government's decision was unfair and was successful in court.

Saith said that in evaluating all the proposals, the technical team gave consideration to the following:

* The relative contribution of the proposed content package to the economic and social development of TT
* The extent that the proposed content package will reflect and contribute to the development of TT's identity and culture
* The contribution of the content package to the overall variety and range of programmes that will be made available in addressing the requirements of the various interest groups in TT
* The extent that competition will be promoted
*The commercial plan for the planned usage of the FM band, including full coverage for Tobago
*The applicant's shareholding/ownership of other mass communications media to avoid the dominance by any one entity in the mass communications sector.

It is believed that it was on the basis of this last criterion that CCN's approval for a licence was turned down. Saith stated that the technical team noted that the existing licensing arrangements had several shortcomings. They included the licence fee - "to date spectrum has been given away freely"; technical parameters of operation; assignment/transferability of licences and duration of licences. Saith said the team had proposed a tighter licensing regime and, mindful that all existing licences are up for renewal by January 2006, the successful applicants would be granted licences for the remaining period. "They, like the existing broadcasters, will be eligible for renewal on the new terms and conditions that are developed," he said. The members of the Technical Committee were Elizabeth Camps, chairperson and head of the Legal Services Division; Mala Guinness, acting director of telecommunications Division; Cris Seecheran, senior telecommunications engineer and Kwesi Prescod, telecommunications adviser.

Trinidad and Tobago News

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