On Tuesday, February 28, I was asked by the National Telecommunications and Regulatory Commission (NTRC) to cooperate with them in what was described as an “organized shutoff of all radio transmitters in the Grand Etang area between the hours of 09:00 a.m. to 03:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, 2018.”
The request was, supposedly because of complains made to the NTRC by the Maurice Bishop International Airport about interference with its aeronautical services.
I was about to comply with the request at 08:58 a.m. on Wednesday morning, when I decided to call the NTRC to inform them about my compliance; but was advised by the Coordinator, one Mr. Lawrence Samuel that I should wait until I receive a call from the NTRC.
At about 09:45 a.m, I received that call from a technician at the NTRC who asked that I shut down CHIME FM, which I promptly did.
About an hour later, I received another call from him, and was told at the time that there were supposedly two stations which were causing the interference – the one at SGU and mine, CHIME FM.
I was asked on no less than four occasions to shut down and turn on CHIME FM, and the goodly gentleman said that that exercise confirmed that CHIME was the main culprit since – every time CHIME was turned off, the interference disappeared; and every time it was turned back on, the interference returned.
Incidentally, as this episode unfolded, I received a call from a former Commissioner at the NTRC asking whether I had been presented with any evidence of the alleged interference – but, I hadn’t!!!
He then asked me to switch my frequency to 99.1 after advising my listeners that I would be so doing. I did. He then advised me that he was also now hearing the interference on 90.1, which confirmed his suspicion that CHIME was the culprit.
This concerned me, but he assured me that there was no need to worry since the NTRC would be willing to work with me to resolve the issue.
However, he would need access to my transmitter which is housed in a container at Grand Etang, owned/managed by Digicel. He further explained that he would call Digicel, get access to the transmitter, and call me back in ten minutes.
This gravely concerned me since – shortly after CHIME FM took to the airwaves, my transmitter was sabotaged (a fact which has been confirmed in writing by the manufacturer of the transmitter!!!!) I found the fact that anyone would want access to my device (even the NTRC) – in my absence – very disturbing!!!! In the meantime, I was to keep the transmitter OFF.
The gentleman never called me back until more than two hours later, at which time I was advised that I would be receiving a phone call from one Mr. John Phillip whom, as far as I know, is an independent technician who was apparently now working with the NTRC. Mr. Phillip would be advising me on the solution and the way forward.
At around 03:30, Mr. Phillip advised me that the noise being heard could be a combination of my station and another. He offered to “re-locate one of the transmitters he has up and running” with mine.
When asked from whom he would get a transmitter, he told me, “From me!” He also confirmed that he has transmitters up and running – ON THE AIR!!! I subsequently learned that what Mr. Phillip meant (or should have said) was that he would borrow a transmitter from another one of the radio stations operating at the site.
In light of the fact that Mr. Phillip was uncertain that CHIME was the culprit, I asked made until he was certain.
He was asked to determine where the issue was and let me know.
At around 04:00p.m, I again received a call from the NTRC’s Mr. Scott – this time, with a totally different tone. He informed me that, even with CHIME still off the air, he continued to hear the noise – and concluded that I was not the culprit.
I was further advised that:
(1). I could now put the station back on the air;
(2). He was extremely sorry about the inconvenience caused to me;
(3). That the NTRC is aware that when stations are off the air, they lose money;
(4). I would be receiving a call from the NTRC about the inconvenience caused; and
(5). That he would continue to monitor the situation and call me on the following day.
That was on Wednesday afternoon around 04:00 p.m. It is now Saturday afternoon, and I have still not heard from Mr. Scott, nor Mr. Samuel (NTRC Coordinator), nor Mr Phillip. Is anyone surprised?
Once the media picked up on this story, the reaction of Grenadians here and abroad was swift. Because of the persecution, ostracisation and victimisation to which this tiny radio station has been subjected during its less than four year tenure on the air, the public believes that this was the result of statements made by a caller to last weekend’s edition of Sundays with George Grant.
In the past, there have been instances where the station’s signal was jammed when editorials from the New Today newspaper were being read – ON FOUR SEPARATE OCCASIONS.
And, let us not forget the shutting down of the station a couple years ago; the threat of a million dollar fine, and ten years in prison!!!
But, the mysteries surrounding the tribulations of CHIME FM did not end there. Even though the station returned to the airwaves around 04:00pm on Wednesday afternoon, that reprieve would be short-lived.
On Friday morning, Allan Bierzynski and William Joseph settled in for this week’s GREAT DISCUSSION – a program which listeners were told would be doing an assessment of the current election campaigns – including plans and promises, the mood of the public, red flags and campaign financing.
At four minutes after the program began, a listener sent an email to CHIME FM which read as follows: “Hi George…at 9.50 (ten minutes before the program began) your signal has turned into a constant hiss with the odd blip ….totally inaudible .” Sheer coincidence?
BY NOON, THE STATION HAD MYSTERIOUSLY GONE OFF-AIR – PERIOD!!!! AND AS OF NOW (03:15 ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON), I HAVE BEEN DENIED ACCESS TO MY TRANSMITTER BY DIGICEL!!!!!! It was around 12:15 p.m. on Friday that I realised that I had gone off the air and promptly called Mr. Adrian Sayer at Digicel. This is the gentleman who was assigned to me by the company to arrange access to my transmitter whenever there was an issue.
There is a written agreement between Digicel and me which provides that access, and he has been to Grand Etang with me on more than one occasion (never willingly, I might add!!!).
I began the conversation by asking whether anyone had been granted access to the container at Grand Etang over the past few days – to which I have still not received an answer. Instead, I was admonished for calling him since, he said, it is not his responsibility.
He claimed that he had previously informed me that someone else had been assigned the responsibility – but I have absolutely no record of that – NONE WHATSOEVER!!!! I had been dealing with him because that was the wish of his superiors.
He then gave me the number for the person who was, supposedly, now responsible for taking care of my needs at the transmission site – Paul Phillip. Needless to say, since I needed to get CHIME back on the air, I promptly called Mr. Phillip at 12:25. But, unfortunately, I got his voice mail; so, I left a message.
Up to 08:30 p.m. on Friday evening, I had not had my call returned, so I again tried reaching Mr. Phillip – and finally did!!!!! After explaining why I had been trying to reach him, he didn’t seem to be aware that he now had responsibility for my Grand Etang issues since he does not deal with access to sites. He said that he could not do anything until Monday (which meant that the station would be off-air all weekend.
He promised to investigate and let me know if anyone accessed the site and if access could be arranged for me.
I was asked to forward a letter about my concerns re the NTRC and my need for access to the site.
When all of the circumstances are added up, it is not difficult to understand why the public has reacted in the way in which it has.
Coupled with this administration’s propensity for stifling free speech, to do otherwise would be laughable.
There is much more to be said, but first I invite the parties mentioned in this article to challenge the content herein. Not only mine, but the Grenadian people’s sleeves are rolled up.