NO POLITICAL INTERFERENCE; RADIO STATIONS FOUND VIOLATING AGREEMENT
Written by George Grant on March 7, 2018
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell says, until it was drawn to his attention, he was unaware of the reasons why the (National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission) NTRC had requested a number of media houses to go off the air for a few hours to facilitate the search for signals which were interfering with air traffic control at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA).
Dr. Mitchell made his comments while speaking to reporters following allegations suggesting that the Government had shut the Radio Stations down for political reasons.
A recent letter from the NTRC to several media houses requested that they co-operate as part of a probe since signals were interfering with communications between airplanes and air traffic control.
“The first time I heard anything about it is when someone brought it to my attention the same report you heard because a lot of the time I don’t have time to get the news. So I knew absolutely nothing about this and I think you all know me, am not a foolish politician to go and interfere with a media house a couple weeks before elections must be a foolish act,” Prime Minister Mitchell told reporters.
“Therefore, this is absolutely false. I think it was gerrymandering for political purposes and strange enough my name is being called. I am not the Minister of Communications. I am not the NTRC Chairperson but yet am the one being accused”.
The source of the interference was reportedly tracked to two radio stations, Chime FM owned by Grants Communications and a community radio station operating out of True Blue.
Both stations were reportedly generating at 1000 watts of power, 500 more watts than what was stipulated as part of the licensing agreement.
When the source of the problem was discovered, The True Blue radio station immediately reverted to the 500 watts which was originally assigned to them, while Chime FM publicly accused the current administration of seeking to stifle press freedom.
“I cannot say that I knew for a fact that George (Grant) was broadcasting on a daily basis, so for me to be accused of trying to cut him off its very unfortunate. It’s silly season, everything is traced back to politician now when in fact in normal times we would not have heard anything about it,” Dr. Mitchell said.
“I understand the communication system could have interfered with signals at the airport with planes. If that’s the case, even if it’s me you have to do something about it because if a plane crashes here because we allowed signals to be interfered with, all of us will pay a heavy price”.
In the release you just read, it is alleged that CHIME was operating at 500 watts more than that which is authorised — an allegation which came as a surprise to CHIME FM. Ironically, CHIME FM has been praised by the Chairman of the NTRC and the regulatory body’s Coordinator. Only last year, during a routine inspection of the station’s transmission system, CHIME was found to be in compliance with the power output regulations; and that was verified by the NTRC’s Coordinator who remotely monitored the transmitter’s output from the studio’s facility.
What appears nowhere in that report is that several stations are allowed to operate at thousands of watts about the regulated limit — while CHIME is strictly restricted to 500 watts — a fact which was learned from no less a source than the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, itself.
Nor is there any mention made in that report that it took the NTRC more than a year to reassign another station (TSOG) to another frequency, even though they were acutely aware of the interference being caused to CHIME. In fact, the offending station was only reassigned when the then head of ECTEL informed CHIME that they had the option of taking the NTRC to court. TSOG was promptly reassigned.