Christmas with GBC

in Features

Gibraltar’s public broadcaster, The Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) has been providing the Rock with a radio and television service since 1963 when Radio Gibraltar and Gibraltar Television merged.

GBC’s Chief Executive Gerard Teuma tells Insight about his passion for broadcasting, the move to new premises and outlines what Gibraltar can look forward to during the festive season. 

“I started my career as a radio presenter back in 1984 before moving into journalism in 1996 where I stayed for nine years,” Gerard explains. Returning in 2007 to radio as Programme Director, he was then appointed CEO in 2012.  

Gerard remembers telling his parents around the age of seven that he wanted to be on the radio. “That is what drove me into the industry,” he says. “Radio has always been my first love and I do miss presenting and being on the air, I miss the performance, but it has been a fantastic career so far.” As a young presenter Gerard says that he was always hugely ambitious and he made sure that he put everything in place to be able to climb the ladder to the top. “It has been a joy to lead GBC, initially in the transition from analogue to digital in 2013 and then over the last four years leading the design and project to migrate to these fabulous new premises.”

After forty-one years in South Barrack Road, GBC relocated to a state-of-the-art broadcast facility in Rosia Road, officially inaugurated by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in October.  “That’s been a huge achievement, not just for me but for all the team around me, and now all our employees are enjoying the fruits of that by being able to work in this fantastic building,” Gerard comments. 

“The move has provided the professional environment in which to operate and we now have a purpose built building with the facilities where people can carry out their trade in decent surroundings with decent equipment – and without the pressures of having to cope with damp, rodents or small cramped premises.”

GBC’s remit is to inform, educate and entertain, but broadcasting has changed significantly over the past decades, so what challenges has Gerard encountered?  “As a public service broadcaster we are always restricted as to what we can do,” he states. “I sit on a Board for the Public Media Alliance of which I was Vice-President, and everybody around me who are CEOs and high ranking officials of the major public service broadcasters around the world, whether that is the BBC in the UK, ABC in Australia or CBC in Canada, share the same type of difficulties that public service broadcasters have everywhere which is funding, because we are constrained in the commercial activity that we do.”

This means making sure that GBC broadcasts programmes which may not be the most commercial in nature. “We have to pitch to the minorities as well and make sure that everybody is served and GBC, within certain constraints, does that too.” Gerard explains that news and current affairs are broadcast in a totally impartial way, but there is also a focus on the history and geography of Gibraltar including social and community aspects. 

“We have to be able to do the best we can with the financial resources at our disposal so we aren’t necessarily able to invest any large amounts of money on big ticket shows which tend to go to the larger broadcasters with a commercial budget.”

From a personal point of view, Gerard agrees that he would like to bring more entertainment style programmes to GBC,  but this involves multi-million pound budgets. “Long gone are the days of having panel games without bells and whistles – the audience wouldn’t put up with that – and although I hear of people hankering for quiz shows and things that we used to have in the seventies, that kind of television doesn’t work anymore and people would get bored – they want flashing lights, sound effects and very complex sets.”

Another challenge over the years has been the introduction of satellite TV and cable operators who provide international programmes with hundreds of channels with which GBC cannot compete. “We do import programmes even though 70% of our schedule is local and we have a very good range of movies that we air because we have struck excellent deals with movie suppliers from both the UK and the US – as well as drama and comedy programmes, and we bring those titles to Gibraltar, making sure of course as much as we can that it is on GBC and not available elsewhere.”

Although Gibraltar doesn’t have an audience measurement company like BARB for television or RAJAR for radio that compiles ratings in the UK, GBC periodically does face to face surveys. “The feedback that we get is that news and current affairs are still the most popular elements of what we do on television – with magazine shows like The Hub, Viewpoint, and the history programmes rating highly.” 

Christmas at GBC is always a fun filled affair, with one of the biggest events in the Christmas schedule being the GBC Open Day, this year taking place on Wednesday 15th December, with marathon shows on both radio and television. 

“The GBC Open Day has been taking place for decades, but it had waned a bit and in 1987 raised only £1,570, so being the kind of person who always wants to build and make things better, I cheekily asked the boss at the time whether he would give me the privilege of trying to improve it,” Gerard states.  “In 1988 we raised £15,000 and it has grown since, year on year, and we now raise in the region of £150,000, last year being exceptional because we raised £380,000 over two Open Days, one at Christmas and one mid-year for Covid.”

Gerard says that Open Day has become exactly what he hoped for, with the community taking ownership and raising money themselves. “Now we have young kids saving their pocket money or a member of the public holding a small raffle, all the way up to companies organising events of their own such as marathons.”  Open Day is also supported by the Gibraltar business community and Gerard says that this is the time of year when if his counterparts in local organisations receive a call from him they know exactly what he wants. “Everybody comes up trumps by making donations of either cash or items that we can then sell or give out as prizes during special raffles.”

“The team really comes together on a day like that and on the night we buy loads of takeaways and we fuel people up to be able to deliver the show to the public and this year will be the first time here in this new building.”

“We make a big investment to provide the best schedule of the year during those last two weeks in the run up to Christmas,” Gerard says. As well as recorded community events such as ‘Christmas at The Convent’ featuring local choirs that will air on Christmas Day, viewers can look forward to ‘Celebration Menu’ which is a reality television show where teams compete against each other to come up with and cook the best festive menu. “We are also importing some fabulous movies including the European terrestrial television premiere of the Queen Biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on Boxing Day and our big movie on 1st January 2022 is The Martian.”

Add to that live church services from the Vatican and a live New Year’s concert from Vienna with the Vienna Philharmonic, and there is no doubt there will be plenty on GBC television and radio to entertain the audience during the festive season.  

“Call me Mr. Christmas, I love Christmas and I like to make sure that trickles through GBC as well – and while I’m here at least that’s what will happen!”

 

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