OPINION | Paco Oliva: “£5.2m annual subsidy for GBC revealed in Parliament”

Journalist Paco Oliva has been a lifelong viewer of the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation’s television channel. Mr. Oliva has written an opinion piece on GBC to coincide with their move to their state-of-the-art new headquarters and studios at South Jumpers Bastion.

The migration of GBC from its dilapidated studios at Broadcasting House to new premises at South Jumpers Bastion captured the headlines during a slow news week.

After a series of insipid relaunches, renovations, re-brandings and aborted attempts at relocations, the definitive resettlement seems to have been finally accomplished.

An exultant CEO Gerald Teuma heralded the providential tidings from his not yet officially unveiled multi-million-pound, state-of-the-art television headquarters.

Beaming with smug self-satisfaction he said that “despite the fact that it has cost a significant amount of money, it would not be as much as you would expect.”

He then explained that the total cost of the fit-out and redesign of the building amounted to £3.7m of which GBC had contributed 700,000, so the hit to government coffers had ‘only’ been £3m. The building has been rented from the developer at a cost of £300,000 a year in rent.

But this does not tell the true story of direct public funding at GBC.

Teuma is an old hand at this game and his opening message in tried and tested pre-emptive tactic tradition was to warn the public not to expect more.

“We cannot deliver more than what we did, we are maxed out,” further stating that the operational budget has not increased and neither has the number of staff.

However, he vowed that what they already do they will do better in the new surroundings, that the programmes will look better, with better content and that the overall GBC product, both radio and television, will improve.

That remains to be seen.

Let us examine more closely where the broadcasting monopoly is today:

One thing is Teuma’s optimistic narrative, and quite another the reality of GBC television output.

Do the CEOs claims stand up to scrutiny?

The key question is, does it deliver value for money? Let readers judge for themselves.


GBC Headquarters, Jumpers Basion Gibraltar | Colin Thompson, Shutterstock

GBC staff is growing all the time. It has become an unmanageable leviathan sucking the udders of the state dry especially in the past decade. The trickle of staff vacancies advertised on the channel is constant.

They must now have close to 100 employees. This is almost two thirds more than what it used to be during George Valarino’s time as general manager, when GBC provided a similar service, in some respects superior, with one major difference.

He did it with a shoestring budget.

(I remember watching David Lynch’s seminal series ‘Twin Peaks’ on GBC in the very early 1990s well before it aired on Spain’s Telecinco, and classic British comedy like ‘Rising Damp’, ‘Yes Minister’, and ‘Spitting Image’.

There were also quality BBC historical series like ‘Upstairs Downstairs’, the TV adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s nostalgia dripping ‘Brideshead Revisited’, and mainstream blockbusters like ‘Dallas’ and ‘LA Law’, without forgetting the weekly omnibus fixes of ‘EastEnders’.

Then there were also the home productions like ‘How Much Do You Know?’ with the charismatic, larger than life Col Hunt who presented an enjoyable quiz show that became unmissable family viewing.

A programme which tested the cream of the local establishment, establishment, when it was written with a capital ‘E’.

Also, Kevin Dobson of Deadline fame, when newsreaders had clear diction, an impeccable command and pronunciation of the English language (and the screen), could read and deliver their broadcasts with the required gravitas, without the use of a teleprompter.

What the old GBC lacked in terms of infrastructure, investment and technical resources they made up with inventiveness, imagination and creativity. Necessity certainly is the mother of invention.

In many ways more money, more resources and a larger physical footprint has merely amplified the negative traits, the complacency, and mistakes of the past, without any of the charm, the personality and attractive features of what was a manageable, austere and truly local channel.

GBC then had a well-grounded sense of realism, self-consciousness of what it was and what it was not, something missing from the organisation today.

Yes, there was compulsory payment of a licence fee which irritated many, but by comparison to the sums of money handled today, it was mere peanuts.

Clearly the passage of time, a pathological sense of entitlement and a seemingly bottomless pit of public funding does not guarantee forward motion or advancement. As far as value for money and even content, we are arguably worse off now than we used to be.

Continued at the link.

1 Like