The Broadcasting Authority’s decision; a collective punishment

Last Updated on Thursday, 2 May, 2024 at 10:13 am by Andre Camilleri

Last week, I was having a coffee after a busy morning, and my mobile did not stop ringing. When I replied, they asked me whether I can talk. I was informed that the Broadcasting Authority issued new directives to all TV and radio stations in relation to political coverage of candidates running for elections. The decision came in complete disregard to the commercial sensitivities of the private TV and radio stations, among others, advertising, as well as distortions in the market. Decency dictates that such decision must be communicated well in advance due to contractual advertising obligations. However, the word decency has gone AWOL in the BA’s vocabulary.

Let’s for a moment say that the decision was taken hastily because of Madam President. However, it is draconian. Nowhere in the western world, such draconian decisions are imposed on private radio and TV stations in a matter of a few days. Such decisions are tantamount to dictatorship and reminiscent of fascist Europe. Frankly, I have no idea whether the Broadcasting Authority decided to issue the new directives of stopping MEP candidates from hosting TV shows on private stations, to appease the current president of the European Parliament. It looks like a collective punishment. It takes me to the primary school memory lane, where, due to just one student the entire classroom received restrictive measures. It shows the laziness of those running the show. I do not expect better. Some of them have become a relic and by the time they retire, they might even qualify for beatification.

This whole charade started last year, when the current secretary general of the Nationalist Party, Dr Michael Piccinino, filed an objection with the Broadcasting Authority about my appearance on the Public Broadcasting Services, arguing that I am taking political advantage because I am a prospective candidate; whatever the word prospective means in terms of legal interpretations. Certainly, there are no definitions of prospective candidates. When I appeared on the news of TVM, I did so in my former capacity of Ambassador of Malta to the Political and Security Committee of the EU. Back then, I stated that President Vladimir Putin was still in control, irrespective of the Prigozhin’s retaliation. When the Broadcasting Authority decided in favour of the secretary general of the Nationalist Party’s objection, it sent a chilling effect to the journalists of the Malta Broadcasting Services, to not invite me any longer. Indeed, they had to comply because my first appearance on TVM came seven months down the line. When I told the secretary general of the Nationalist Party that in a few months’ time this will backfire, well I was not joking.

When the Broadcasting Authority issued a statement saying that the political reporting of President Metsola must be of news value rather than about the president per se, I wrote to them to keep with the decision. Furthermore, I asked the Broadcasting Authority to reply to the European Parliament’s Office to invite President Metsola to not miss the upcoming debates organised by the Broadcasting Authority. Apparently, the European Parliament’s Office argued that such reporting limitations, would obstruct the Parliament’s flow of information to the electorate, and hence people will not be properly informed about the Parliament’s work. Well, Dr Metsola would have ample time to articulate what is happening if she decides to accept attending the debates. Also, I appealed to Dr Metsola to attend the debates, as I would be willing to participate and seize the opportunity to ask questions, which questions are still left unanswered, especially about Nagorno-Karabakh and Ilham Aliyev.

Hitherto, nobody from the Nationalist Party came out with a counterargument. Indeed, it backfired to the point that even the Nationalist Party candidates, including Dr Peter Agius and David Agius, are limited from hosting their own programmes. This is also in view of the fact that they cannot compete with the resources of the current president and the incumbent MEPs. It is discriminatory to the point of ridicule. Well, they owe it to their daft secretary general. Peter, David and the rest of you, just say thank you to Michael Piccinino. Someone even texted me saying that these people are truly nitpicking to the point that if they do not play, they will make it a point to rescind the game. As we used to say in our teenage times, “jekk ma jilgħabx iħassar”.

In the coming days, or weeks, we might attest to turbulent events, or at least this is my understanding from what is being reported in the media. The timing is actually shocking. Whoever came up with such an idea, is simply eroding the trust in the independence of the institutions. Such an occurrence is neither by chance nor by probability, but purposely crafted. Obviously, we will not stop short of commenting, and writing about it, irrespective of who takes decisions, and irrespective of who comes out in droves objecting it. I am writing in English because I want the media abroad to pick up what I am writing. Malta is completely different from the rest of Europe, just like Germany is completely different from the rest of us southern Mediterranean countries. The power to the Maltese means that we will do what it takes to object to the conspiracy of snakes, especially those appointing themselves as judge and jury.

My pledge is that if granted the opportunity to serve the electorate, I will make sure to see what is happening in the realm of military spending including the request of multiple audits.

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