Radio licencesBy Jarryl BryanThe Guyana National Broadcasting Authority (GNBA) has announced that the Georgetown frequency spectrum, categorised as the primary broadcast zone, is depleted to the point where future allocations are limited. This disclosure follows the GNBA’s presentation of six more radio licences.GNBA Chairman, Attorney-at-Law Leslie Sobers, disclosed this information while speaking to media operatives on Friday. According to Sobers, the primary zone, inclusive of the Georgetown area, is depleted; and, as such, the GNBA would be more rigid in its future distribution of licences.“The spectrum in Georgetown, the primary area, is limited. And of the limited spectrum space we have, we can’t give it all out. Something has to be withheld for the future. So we have to approach very carefully who else will get licences for the primary zone,” he said.“In the secondary and tertiary zones, we have a lot of space,” Sobers added as he sought to assure that other zones are available. “The limitation is only for this primary area. But the rest of Guyana (has) plenty space.”While the GNBA is the regulatory agency for broadcasting in Guyana, the National Frequency Management Unit (NFMU) manages the frequency spectrum. Sobers has indicated that from a technical point of view, only a sit down with the unit could confirm how many more radio stations can fit on the spectrum.The zonesLast year, Government passed the Broadcast (amendment) Act of 2017. In the Act, specific zones and a new licensing fee regime have been identified. These zones are the one primary, four secondary, and three tertiary zones.The primary zone comprises of Georgetown and the whole of Region Four. This zone is also made up of Region Three up to the Essequibo River, and Region Five up to the Abary River.The first secondary zone is comprised of Regions One, Two and the Essequibo Islands part of Region Three. Secondary zone two comprises of Bartica; while zone three includes all of Region Six. Zone four refers to all of Region 10, including Linden and that section of the Berbice River falling within the region.In the tertiary zone, zone one is a reference to all of Region Nine, including Lethem. Zone two is Region Eight, including Mahdia, while zone three refers to Region Seven, exclusive of Bartica.It is understood that with the addition of the six new licences, in excess of ten radio stations are now ensconced in the primary zone. A station in the primary zone can reach the most people, as Guyana’s population is largely concentrated in Region Four. This zone is therefore considered highly valuable, thus the 2017 Broadcasting Act has set the television licensing base fee per year as $1.2 million.The fee in the secondary zone is set at $600,000; while that in the tertiary zone is set at $300,000.In the case of cable, the fee structure is the same as television. For radio, the licensing fee in the primary zone is $2.5 million, while it is $1.2 million in the secondary zone, and $625,000 in the tertiary zone.These new zone fees and restrictions had caused concern with broadcasters, with one broadcaster, Freedom Radio Inc, filing a constitutional challenge in the High Court over the imposition of increases in the annual broadcasting fee and the expropriation of its airwaves during ‘prime time,’ for Government broadcasts.Freedom Radio argued in its legal challenge that the move is in fact unconstitutional, since it violates fundamental rights and freedoms which enjoy protection under the Constitution of Guyana. The applicant further highlighted that the fees have been increased to $7.5 million annually, up from the $2.5 million of previous payments.Freedom Radio Inc previously paid $2.5 million annually for its Broadcasting Licence, in addition to another payment of $633,600 for its spectrum.Back then, acting Chief Justice Roxanne George had indicated that the matter was fixed for ruling on February 15, 2018.