Panafrican News Agency

Coronavirus: Gambian radio stations owners dismayed over government failure to assist media houses as pandemic escalates

Banjul, Gambia(PANA) - Managers of radio stations in The Gambia Wednesday recounted difficulties confronting them in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and called on government for support.

The impact of COVID-19, they said, had hit them harder than expected since the country recorded its first case of the pandemic in March.

They all expressed dismay over the government’s failure to assist the media houses even as the pandemic escalated.

Sulayman Saul Sowe, chief executive officer, Capital FM Radio, said they had been affected, both in terms of revenue and staffing, as they had to send 80 percent of their staff back home because they could not afford to pay them full salaries, which had subsequently affected their programmes.

Sowe explained that all major advertisements/contracts due for renewal had not been renewed while forecast adverts to come never did, adding that the suspension of all entertainment shows also impacted on the availability of adverts.

“We broadcast regular updates on the pandemic through our news and currents affairs talk shows as well through sensitization songs produced by Joluv Arts and other artists. But we are expecting support from Ministry of Health but it never come.”

In addition to their programme, he said they now broadcast educational programmes from MoBSE for which they were paid only 30 percent of the actual fee,  a deal they agreed to enable them contribute to the ongoing situation.

“We are urging government to support us in this trying time as we are a major contributor in information dissemination, upholding culture, promoting sports and entertainment. Radio stations are also contributing to the employment of young people that are now breadwinners of their families. Therefore, government’s support to us (media print and electronic) is essential especially in term of continuity in COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Buba Gagigo, programme manager, Sen FM Radio, said the emergence of COVID-19 had made things difficult for them at the radio station. He observed that to invite guests to the radio station for programme nowadays was very difficult, as finance had become the biggest challenge while the pandemic continued.

Concerning advertisement, Gagigo said his radio station maintained old advertisements that were registered before the start of COVID-19 but could not secure any new ones.

He lamented that each time his staff talked to customers about advertisements, the response from people or business community was always about the effect of COVID-19 on their businesses.

He noted that since the pandemic hit the country, his station had not received a single advertisement “and this really has impact on our financial revenue”.

According to Gagigo, Sen FM Radio covers all COVID-19 programmess but it is becoming too hard on them due to inadequate revenue and no support from the government and ministry of Health.

“The only thing received from government is the e-learning fee organized by MOBSE; apart from that, we got no support from the government,” he said.

He dilated on daily challenges that were facing radio stations in the country in this era of coronavirus pandemic such as their inability to pay staff in due time.

“Before the pandemic, we make early payments of salary but now it goes to mid-month before we could pay them. We even reduced salaries in order to pay half of our staff and we are afraid that some of the staff might resign,” he explained.

“Government should understand that media houses are also part of the frontline workers and they should support us if they want to fight the pandemic because if we don’t have funds, we cannot send our reporters, in that case we would not be able to broadcast. If that happens, to disseminate messages to the public will become a problem.”

Muhammed Sanyang, manager of DHK FM radio, also spoke of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on their job. He said it had affected the socio-economic situation of DHK FM radio and the social activity of the programme aspect of the radio had stopped due to the pandemic.

He said economically, they had no business transaction to run the finances of the radio while radio advertisements were not functioning like before because of the pandemic.

“We send series of our journalists to cover all COVID-19 events but we never received any aid from the government or any other institutions. Some of the staff's basic amenities are substitutes but the management is still trying by paying salaries to the staff,” he said.

He urged government to also help radio stations in the country financially to enable them do more civic awareness programmes and provide more preventive measures for their staff.  

Managing Director of Choice FM Basiru Jarju affirmed that radio stations across the country had lost most of their revenue since the outbreak of COVID-19.

He said since the beginning of the pandemic in the country, his radio station had got no new advertisement.

Like other radio stations, he said they always covered COVID-19 events and also sensitized the populace on the pandemic.

However, he said there was still no support or assistance from the government to appreciate their efforts regarding the payment of staff salaries and operational costs.

“We would be grateful if government can come up with a package for all media houses because it is a known fact that media houses entirely depend on advertisements, announcements, sponsorship and support, that’s our only source of income,” he added.

“We have two hours daily Coronavirus shows in local languages but my radio station has not received any support directly from any institution and media houses.

“Media houses really need help, especially radio stations, because we are now facing more challenges in particular when it comes to staff salaries and other financial issues,” Gibbi S Jallow of King FM Radio lamented.

Editor-in-Chief of Taranga FM Modou Lamin Joof said the impact of COVID-19 had negatively affected Taranga FM radio “especially that all radio stations depend on adverts because government does not support media houses like other countries does”.   

Joof explained that since the COVID-19 started, many businesses were not active and many institutions, too, were no more advertising their products, events and activities with the radio station.

“Still we have to work every day because informing the public is our responsibility. And we never get any support from the government despite being part of the frontline workers producing and covering all activities of COVID-19 since the outbreak in the country.”

He called on government to help media houses “because when Covid-19 started in Senegal, so much support was given to media houses and even before the pandemic, Senegalese government always supported their media houses.”

According to Ebrima Jaiteh, Paradise FM manager, the impact of COVID-19 is huge on their daily radio activities because they have changed almost 65 percent of their content and created new programmes to sensitize the public on issues related to the deadly virus.

Among other impacts, the pandemic has made them reduce the number of staff on their daily news production to observe the social distancing, which also has a negative impact on news production.

“All the stories we covered about COVID-19 are 100% funded by the Radio as part of our social responsibility. “We do face challenges to pay salaries and every aspect of running a radio station because radio station daily activities are very expensive,” he explained.

“We are asking government to support the media sector as we are part of the fight against the pandemic; so we really need financial support to continue the fight against COVID-19,” he stated.


-0-    PANA     MSS/RA   17Jun2020