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Hamat says granting TV license to GSM companies affects advertisement industry

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By Omar Bah

The Minister of Lands and Local Government, Hamat Bah, has said part of the reasons for the decline in advertisement revenue for the media could be attributed to the decision to issue TV or radio licenses to GSM companies such as the QGroup. 

Expanding on this topic at a joint government press conference yesterday, Hamat accused former Information Minister Demba Ali Jawo of ignoring a cabinet recommendation not to issue a license to QGroup for QTV and QRadio.

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Bah said cabinet had recommended against issuing such licenses so that the advertisement industry will grow and the media could make money.

“But after we took that decision and reconvened again, Jawo told us licenses have already been issued even though we have asked them not to issue licenses. Today, you, the media are victims of that decision because QCell will not advertise with you,” Minister Bah said.

He said although DA Jawo is the government’s biggest critic now, he didn’t do much to support the media when he was minister.

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Bah said President Barrow never wanted him to say these things but you cannot have a huge GSM company  owning TV and radio stations. “How will the media get money from advertisements? How is that possible when you are the ones who are supposed to pay the media to grow and build capacities of their staff?” he said.

Minister Bah also appealed to the media to be considerate and ensure what their report doesn’t endanger the country’s peace and stability.

“This is why I keep appealing to the government to ensure the media is provided with resources to be able to train their reporters because it is in our interest to have a vibrant and professional media,” he said.

Land for media houses

Minister Bah said the president had given a directive a few days ago for some selected media houses to be allocated plots of land to allow them build their own headquarters.

“And my ministry is committed to implement that directive,” Minister Bah added.

DA response

Reacting to Minister Bah’s allegations, former Information Minister DA Jawo wrote on Facebook: “While I do not have all the details with me right now, but the fact is that all the applications for licenses to operate both TV and radio were extensively discussed in cabinet and approval given for the process to go ahead. It is therefore not true to say that I went against a cabinet recommendation not to issue a license to the QGroup”.

He continued: “While I agree that it may not be quite ideal to issue broadcast licenses to GSM companies, there were some mitigating factors that warranted the issuing of those licenses. In the first place, it was not QCell which applied for the licenses but the QGroup created a separate company (Core Broadcasting and Multimedia Company Limited) which applied for the licenses and which was legally different from the GSM company. Therefore, there was no legal basis to deny that company a license because, according to due diligence carried out by PURA, it met all the criteria to be issued one. Who am I to go against the recommendations of the technical experts?”

Jawo said another mitigating factor was that a precedent had already been created when another GSM company was issued with a license to operate a radio station a few years earlier.

“As a cabinet minister, I expected Mr Bah to have known that as information minister, I was the very last cog in the wheel of issuing an operating license to a media house. I depended entirely on the advice of the technicians, especially PURA, whose mandate it is to carry out due diligence in order to determine who has met the criteria to be issued a broadcast license,” he said.

Mr Jawo said Minister Bah was quite unfair to accuse him of going against the recommendations of the cabinet because “it was not the case”.

“As far as I am concerned, the process was done in accordance with the dictates of the law, otherwise, PURA would not have recommended the issuing of the licenses for both QTV and QRadio, as well as all the other media licenses that I signed as minister. Ironically, his statement was being covered live by QTV, which, according to him, should never have been given a license to operate. Mr Bah also seems to have insinuated that I had a personal interest in issuing those licenses, but I would challenge anyone to come up with any shred of evidence that I benefited from any of the broadcast licenses that I had approved,” Jawo concluded.

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