Gambia Radio & Television Services (GRTS)

GRTS is Gambia’s flagship public service broadcaster, commissioned by the state to conduct audiovisual services in 1995. GRTS is tasked with providing nationwide television coverage via terrestrial and satellite transmission and radio coverage via MW and FM transmitters. According to various estimates, GRTS covers roughly 80% of the country. Viewers’ access is also very limited as the country experiences frequent electricity outages. Radio Gambia is the sole radio production station of the national GRTS radio network.

Media assets

Television: Gambia Television (GRTS TV)

Radio: Radio Gambia

State Media Matrix Typology: State-Controlled (SC)

Ownership and governance

The government-owned Gambia Radio and Television Services Corporation was established by an Act of Parliament, namely the Gambia Radio and Television Services Corporation Act of 2004, to provide broadcasting services focused on information, education and entertainment.

GRTS is owned by the government through the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure.

GRTS has a board of directors that reports to the information minister. The president appoints the GRTS Director General on the recommendation of the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure. The current minister of information is a former Director General of GRTS.

Source of funding and budget

The main source of funding at GRTS is revenue generated through the Global Systems Mobile Levy on telecoms paid to the government of Gambia. In 2014, according to the company’s latest annual report, GRTS had a total budget of GMD 75.7m (US$1.5 m). Telecom levies accounted for some 38% of the total budget that year. With a government grant worth GMD 17m, the government’s combined funding channeled to GRTS accounted for more than 64% of the broadcaster’s total budget.

The financial data for GRTS are old because the company submits its financial statements with significant delays. According to local experts knowledgeable of the content of annual reports for 2017-2018 presented for approval to the government, over 50% of the GRTS’ budget is accounted for by government money (both government grants and revenue from telecom levies collected by the government).

The broadcaster has been struggling financially for many years. It is often faced with a staff shortage as its journalists frequently quit lured by higher salaries in private media outlets, according to two journalists formerly with GRTS interviewed in March 2024.

Editorial independence

No set of rules forces GRTS to promote the government in its programming. Yet, GRTS is supposed to abide by Section 208 of the Constitution which states that, “all state owned newspapers, journals, radio and television shall afford fair opportunities and facilities for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.”However, despite the station’s management’s claims that they aim for independence, GRTS lacks editorial independence mainly because the legal framework does not provide adequate and sustainable mechanisms for GRTS’ editorial autonomy. Moreover, vaguely defined legal provisions on content obligations hinder GRTS from offering independent programming. In the past year, evidence of censorship has been uncovered at GRTS.

No domestic statute and no independent assessment or oversight mechanism have been identified to validate GRTS’s editorial independence.

July 2023