The director of Finance at the Gambia Radio and Television Services (GRTS) Tuesday revealed that the national broadcaster registered a turnover of D70M in the year ended 2011.
Lamin Ceesay made this revelation while presenting the institution's Audited Financial Statement for the year ended 2011, before the Joint Session of Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly. He explained that the amount indicates an increase of D15.1M against the figure of D54.3M for 2010, thus registered an increase in comparison to 2010 by 28%. "Total recurrent expenditure for the year ended 31st December, 2011 amounted to D82.5M. This showed an increase in total recurrent expenditure by D50.4M as compared to that of 2010," he said.
He informed the Committee that the increase in recurrent expenditure over the years is as a result of the increase in staff roll, materials and repairs, and maintenance costs, adding that direct operation costs amounted to D32M in 2010, decreasing against the 2011 figure by D3M. Ceesay went on to reveal that a gross operating loss of D12.5M was recorded in 2011, which he said compared to 2010, indicates an increase of a loss margin of 0.8% in 2011.
He added: "The loss margin registered in 2011 was mainly due to the annual increment of staff cost, water, and electricity and travel costs for both local and overseas, depreciation charged on fixed assets and unpaid services rendered in 2011."
Presenting the annual activity report, Alhaji Momodou Sanyang, the director general of GRTS, said he is delighted to appear before the Committee to fulfil their constitutional requirement. He also expressed appreciation for the guidelines provided by the Committee for the preparation of the relevant documents.
"Our activity report and financial statement have highlighted our modest achievements and constraints over the period under review as well as indicate some ideas in what we conceive to be the way forward. In fact, our report on this occasion includes a fairly elaborate summary of the GRTS profile which offers honourable members a good historical insight into the developments of the national broadcaster from its inception to date," he stated, adding that it also focuses on human resources development, technical operation and financial performances.
DG Sanyang reported that effective January 2012, the government has taken full responsibility for the GRTS crew that undertake official overseas trips, while expressing on behalf of the Board of Directors, management and staff of GRTS', their appreciation to government for that giant step.
However, he said, much more needs to be done especially in terms of funding to ensure the sustainability of the national broadcaster. "Our social role has never been quantified in monetary terms. It consists, inter alia, not only providing free broadcast services but also providing programmes of culturally ad educationally enriching values which impact the lives of the citizens," DG Sanyang who was highly commended by the Committee further stated.
He continued: "To this end, the Radio [Radio Gambia] continues to operate 15 hours daily from Monday to Thursday and 18 hours from Friday to Sunday. We have phased out the AM (MW) transmission at Bonto and have acquired and installed a powerful 2KW transmitter at Abuko which significantly ensure nationwide coverage.
"Our radio studios are installed with digital mixers, CD players, MD players and recorders as well as digitalised control and programme compilation system to facilitate easy editing of programmes. All these are geared towards our fulfilment of the International Telecommunication Union's requirement of broadcasting digitally by 2015. Currently we are operating on four FM channels (i.e 98.6, 102.6, 106.7, and 106.2) and we can be listened to live online. Our programmes and news can also be read on the website."
Sanyang told the Committee that the TV transmission runs from 3.00pm to 1.00am Monday to Thursday and from 10am to 1.00am from Friday to Sunday. "Since going satellite, GRTS has made every possible effort to revamp the old schedule and introduce more interesting and culturally enriching programmes of more popular appeal," he added.
The GRTS boss further revealed that they have 33 new line-up of TV programmes excluding the ones newly introduced and those being promoted, adding that all these programmes are designed to cover various areas such as, Agriculture, Religion, Sports, Current Affairs, Reality TV, Comedy, Entertainment and Children's programming.
Current status of satellite project
His words: "Apart from the four Toyota 4 by 4 pick-ups received in 2010, the buildings to house the TV (5KW) and radio (2KW FM) transmitters and housing for the standby generators as well as fencing of the sites have been completed at Abuko, Kanilai, Kudang, and Basse. Also, 100-meter Masts have been constructed at Abuko, Kudang, and Basse."
Sanyang added that in addition to the fixed Satellite Uplink Transmission in C-Band since May 2009, they are now transmitting in Ku-band since 20th August 2011 for their European viewers. He also told the Committee that the building to house the TV and radio transmitter and generator room for Mansakonko, and the renovation of the Bansang building are yet to be done on the satellite project.
"Mobile Satellite truck (for live broadcasts countrywide), Six camera TV production trucks, Radio production van, TV virtual suites, three edit suites, four cameras, portable digital microwave links, miscellaneous equipment for TV and Radio are yet to be delivered by the contractor," he said.
Sanyang said that notwithstanding the foregoing state of affairs on the ground, the Board of Directors, Management and entire workforce of GRTS are all fully committed to ensuring the successful realisation of the mandate of the national broadcaster, and would like to continue counting on the consistent support of government to that end. He then appealed for government's intervention by way of subvention and an increase in the User-Fee Levy of 1.25, which presently hardly meets even the staff emoluments.
The GRTS DG did not hesitate to thank and commend the president of the Republic, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Dr. Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh, for his personal contribution to the smooth operation of GRTS, especially by giving them up to 11 of his own personal cameras, and assured that they will continue to do all they can to make GRTS the best.
Hon. Lamin Kebba Jammeh, NAM for Illiasa Constituency, thanked the GRTS management for the detailed report. He said GRTS needs help to get out of the problem that they are faced with, noting that if it was another institution; they would have advised for it to be closed down and declare it bankrupt.
Hon. Fatou Mbye, deputy speaker, said it is expensive to provide radio and television services. She urged them to recover the debt owed. She also highlighted the need for increase in subvention and User-Fee, while commending the management for a job well done.
Hon. Abdoulie Saine, NAM for Banjul Central, called for concerted efforts to bail GRTS out of this serious problem. "This is not a self-made problem and definitely they need help to recover the debts," he said.
Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, the speaker of the National Assembly, said the legislative house cannot sit down and see GRTS sinking with all the good work the national broadcaster is doing. Hon. Abdoulie Kanaji Jawla of Sandu also commended the national broadcaster for a job well done.
Samba JB Tambura, an assistant compliance officer at the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), said GRTS was found to be substantially compliant to the GPPA Act and Regulations, before the Committee finally adopted the report.