Celebrating Fifteen Years of Development (1994-2009)
GAMBIA RADIO & TELEVISION SERVICES
In December 1995 the Gambia Government commissioned the Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS) TV station under the auspices of Gambia Telecommunications Company (GAMTEL). Test transmissions from a 5KW transmitter in Abuko in the western part of the country covered the Greater Banjul Area. Shortly after, two more transmitting stations were built in Soma and Bansang in the East to attain nation-wide coverage. But parts of the country, particularly, the East still remains uncovered.
From the moment of its commissioning, Gambia Television has operated as a public service station in the tradition of the older established Radio Gambia. The bulk of the programmes are devoted to a news, public information, education, entertainment and religious orientation. Broadcasts are made in all the four major languages as well as English and French. Some programmes from foreign sources like CFI, CNN and Deutsche Welle also feature in the station’s schedule and Gambian viewers now have guaranteed access to ‘live’ satellite transmissions of significant world events.
As more and more television sets become available, Gambia Television has become an increasingly important and uniquely effective medium of communication. Its contribution to public education and awareness building campaigns leading to the 1996 and 2001 Presidential and National Assembly Elections have been hailed as a great stride in the democratisation and good governance process. Generally, significant progress has been achieved since 1995 and the station is beginning to consolidate on those gains.
Since its operation in late 1995 to date both technical and administrative accommodation were provided by GAMTEL at its major facility sites. In 2002, Government completed building a multi-million dalasi Headquarters to house the GRTS’s technical, administrative and operational requirements.
GRTS, Programming and National Development
The importance of Television broadcasting for socio-economic development of the Gambia cannot be over emphasised. Knowledge and information are fundamental drivers of increased productivity and are seminal to invention, innovation and wealth creation. We believe that a country that provides proper and timely information to its citizens possesses advantages for sustained economic growth. To disseminate appropriate knowledge, the TV runs programmes on new innovations in appropriate technology in agriculture as a way of educating our farming communities. This has tremendous impact on agricultural output of farmers and has resulted in improved production, especially in rice and vegetables.
Agriculture being the backbone of the country’s economy and employing over 85% of rural workforce, it is imperative to show programmes that can improve farming methods, increase yields and ultimately increase food sufficiency and food security. This in turn is believed to reduce poverty levels, improves health status the Gambian people, in line with the goals and objectives of our Poverty Reduction Strategy.
One of the critical problems facing Gambian society today is the spread of HIV/AIDS among the active population. This disease if not contained or minimised will have a debilitating effect on our socio-economic development as it affects the young and most energetic members of the society. The Television has been very instrumental in the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign in collaboration with the National AIDS Secretariat. The sensitisation programme has created a major impact, as many people now believe that the disease exists. With series of programmes shown by TV on the AIDS epidemic many in the society came to grips with realities that the disease is real and can be avoided.
These and other programmes are a very essential ingredient of our poverty reduction strategy and need to be expanded to cover all areas of the country. This however, is only feasible if essential equipment and logistics are available to GRTS.
Other programmes of significant importance to poverty reduction carried by the national TV relates to women and women-related issues. In the Gambia, women do most of the agricultural production, and programmes that help enlighten and empower them are crucial in our drive to attain self-sufficiency in food production and economic prosperity.
Plans for Future Development
It is evident that if GRTS television is to become a truly credible national service, it must establish an all-pervasive presence throughout the country and be more abreast with developments in agriculture, education and health care service delivery, and infrastructure provision. It must continue to be a medium for the transfer of skills and techniques, for the dissemination of knowledge and information on good practice and for the fostering of dialogue and understanding among communities and with our neighbours. It is in recognition of this fact that government through GAMTEL has built the multi-million Dalasi headquarters and studio complex. This Headquarter is yet to be equipped and fully operational.
It is our firm conviction that with a fully equipped studio complex coupled with improved transmission coverage country-wide, GRTS will consolidate its gains and further facilitate the transfer of knowledge and information, which is a vital prerequisite for self-development. Much scope exists for Gambia Television to make a tremendous impact on the quality of life of the people of The Gambia, particularly those in less-endowed rural communities. This situation has made the need for an increased transmitting power imperative if GRTS is to meet the growing demands of the diverse local and sub-regional audience.
An important consideration in forward planning is the training of staff and the provision of a second channel for better choice and outreach and to de-congest the already crowded channel. Several producers and engineers have had the benefit of overseas training and exposure, while some organizations have also run training courses locally in an attempt to reach as many trainees as possible. The steady improvement in programme content and design is the result of these training initiatives. It is inevitable that an increasingly sophisticated audience has started to place more and more challenges on the resourcefulness and creativity of our producers and programmers. A general review of training needs in programming, production, marketing and other related socio-cultural tools of GRTS in information management and dissemination therefore, cannot be over emphasized.
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