Malta’s Prime Minister said that it was important to keep Malta’s political party media running to ensure a “certain balance” when it comes to Maltese broadcasting.
“I believe it’s good to have this kind of pluralism in media,” Robert Abela said in an interview with Lovin Malta. “The church has its own channel, the parties have their own media, and what’s important is we need to be factual.”
When asked about the importance of media being impartial, and whether this type of partisan media could lead to more tribalism, Abela said things can be seen from another perspective.
“You can look at things from different optics. The political stations are important to keep an element of balance in broadcasting… I believe a political station should be able to restore a balance in messaging, a certain neutrality in messaging that might not be communicated in others’ messaging,” Abela said
His comments come amidst a national discussion on whether party’s media, oftentimes seen as political propaganda, should continue to be allowed in Malta, when it isn’t allowed anywhere else in the rest of Europe. Lovin Malta’s show Kaxxaturi has raised thousands to mount a court case against Malta’s party-owned TV stations, arguing that stations like One and Net go against the Constitution, the right to freedom of information, and the basic rules of fair competition.
The Constitution demands impartiality from news and current affairs broadcasts and party media have historically attempted to circumvent it by arguing that One and Net cancel each other out.
However, the Broadcasting Authority’s CEO said in her thesis that this argument doesn’t hold water
Il-Prim Ministru u Mexxej tal-Partit Laburista, Robert Abela intervistat minn Lovin Malta
Posted by Lovin Malta on Sunday, August 23, 2020
However, Abela said that this was a “subject I enjoy and am open to further discussion on it”.
When it came to the recent axing of Xarabank, one of Malta’s most iconic and longest-running discussion shows that aired on TVM, he said he gave “no political direction” when it came to the decision to remove it, saying he had no conflict of interest in heading a broadcasting reform.
“The reform in broadcasting is happening. As a government, we are working on it holistically. The Xarabank decision was taken following the Public Broadcasting Station’s programming statement of intent – there was no political interference,” he said. “I’m not a regulator – and we have formulas for regulators to work with.”
He also hit out as Emanuel Cuschieri, saying that he does not represent the position of the government with his comments.
And on the topic of the PL’s media financial accounts, Abela said that the Labour party was currently undergoing an auditing exercise, though he gave no timeframe for when it might end.