C.N. Sharma

Embattled television station owner, Chandra Narine Sharma, says that he is prepared to pull his popular, 20-year-old “Voice of the People” programme off the air, amidst continued pressure from government.
The businessman and leader of the Justice For All Party (JFAP), Sharma also admitted that he lives in fear every day of being closed down by the government.
Making a case of how fearful he has now become of possible closure, Sharma said, “We received complaints about Christopher Ram and we take him off too. So what are we doing? We are trying to please the government and also people who are involved. You cannot say anything about the ministers of government, and as the media it is our duty to report to the people about what is taking place…I suffered a lot (then).”
Over the weekend, Sharma’s TV station, CNS Channel 6, dropped a 15-week-old call-in programme, “Keeping Them Honest”. In a letter to the show’s co-host, Christopher Ram, Sharma disclosed that the “relevant authorities” had spoken to him about the content of the programme and for “regulatory reasons” he made the decision.
Sharma made it clear in a letter to Ram that the decision did not come without pressure.
“I thank you most sincerely for choosing the People’s Station CNS6 for your hugely popular and useful programme and I trust that you will understand the pressure to which my TV station has been subject to over the past several years and the sensitivity of the authorities in the current politically charged environment.”
He added that even the courts seem to be against him. He said that he had gone to court to challenge the four-month closure, but the decision was not handed down until eight months later. “It was a waste of time, because by then he had started transmission again.”
The businessman said that he cannot afford to close now with staff and banks to pay.
According to Sharma, he is prepared to bend over backwards, essentially being a ‘Yes Man’ to ensure that he “comply” with the government and stay in business.
“…with what they want. They want Adam Harris to come off, I take him off. They want Christopher Ram off…I take him off. Vieira give them problem…I remove Vieira. The next is that I might have to remove. If I have to remove, I have no problem. The station has to work. We have a lot of staff. We have to do everything to keep the station going.”
The businessman also strongly believes that he is being targeted.
“They keeping watching Sharma all the time…24 hours a day everybody got their eyes on Sharma. It is okay if you saying Sharma is a joker. But you are really concerned because you make sure you watch Sharma.”
“If government don’t want (me to) highlight programme, say so. Sharma (will) stop (highlighting) the problems. Tell me what else left? You don’t want death announcement, I tek it off.”
This may be a hard pill to swallow as CNS Channel 6 reportedly grosses a major part of its revenues from the airing of death announcements and memoriams.
Asked if his freedom of expression has been under attack, Sharma was direct.  “My freedom has been targeted for a number of years since I formed a political party. I always living in fear for the past 18-19 years. I living in fear right now. When I wake up, I always wondering when I will get a letter from ACB to close off. My staff live in fear.”
Sharma has literally become a household name for his straight-talking style on the programme which landed him in hot water on a number of occasions, especially with the government.
Speaking during an interview on Monday, the businessman said that he has been pushed into a corner.
The station, a few years ago, was closed for a month after a woman during a call-in programme had made what authorities viewed as shooting threats against President Bharrat Jagdeo.
It was then closed for four months after he aired footage showing government officials partying during the 2005 floods. The footage was later deemed as mischievous and not true.
Recently, the ACB recommended a six-month closure of the station after statements by government critic and former Parliamentarian, Anthony Vieira against Juan Edhgill, Chairman of the Ethnic Relations Commission, during a programme that was aired.
Sharma and his wife Savitri were summoned before the President recently for a meeting, but the decision was not made to close the station. Ram and his co-host, Ramon Gaskin, on Monday claimed that the administration was using this threat of closure to silence the channel.
Hinting that he is clearly not happy with the current regulating system which monitors especially TV stations, the official felt that if the state was of the opinion that rules are being broken, then “things” have to be put into place.
“The Broadcast Bill supposed to pass since (Opposition Leader) Desmond Hoyte and (President) Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo had dialogue how many years now…and yet to this day we can’t get the Broadcast legislation.”
Sharma also criticized the fact that the country has only one radio station and this is controlled by government.
“One nation…one radio up to now. I ask 15 years ago to relay my signal to Linden and Region 6 and on to this day no answer. But television stations could extend their signal…remove their antennas and tek it where they want. So there is certain law in this country for certain people.”
Regarding the “Voice of the People” programme, the TV host noted that it has been around for 20 years.

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