The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

PBS Should not be biased or prejudiced – PL MPs

Malta Independent Tuesday, 8 December 2009, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

The deteriorating standards and production levels of the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS), Malta’s national TV station, dominated yesterday’s parliamentary session.

Labour Party MPs complained that the current state of the PBS is more state oriented than public oriented.

Labour Party spokesperson for Education Evarist Bartolo went as far as comparing the PBS to the Zimbabwean national broadcasting services, wherein the state controls everything and has the final say on anything that is broadcasted on air. Instead of striving to mirror the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the longest established and largest broadcaster in the world, the PBS has allowed the government to intervene in its services, reducing the nation’s freedom of expression in the process.

Mr Bartolo said that the PBS should take into account the quest for liberty and social justice, citing Malta’s past as evidence that collaboration can be reached between the two political parties to enhance the services of the Maltese public.

Furthermore, said Mr Bartolo, journalists and broadcasters should be employed by the PBS based on their skills, integrity and competence, and not merely offered the job because they know someone. It is only when such action takes place, concluded Mr Bartolo, that Malta can then be truly considered to be a democratic country

Labour Party MP Gino Cauchi said that the government should refrain from intervening in whatever PBS chooses to broadcast. Mr Cauchi said that even though the PBS used to be run by a neutral board of directors, the government instructed the TV station to select an editorial board of directors. Instead of liaising with one another, these two separate boards have created confusion, according to Mr Cauchi, because no one has any idea who has the final say on anything any more. To make matters worse, the current chairman of PBS and other persons in high managerial positions have been employed by the government itself.

This is unfair on the Maltese public, said Mr Cauchi, for its national TV station is no longer neutral. Even though the PBS was given e1.6 million to enhance its services and production levels, with around e260,000 allocated towards children’s programmes, the majority of this sum has been put forward in creating biased current affairs programmes and mediocre drama series.

Taking an example into account as evidence that the PBS is biased, Mr Cauchi said that no one on board the PBS has tackled the BWSC issue in recent days, even if it was the centre of much controversy. Another case in point is the fact that the PBS allocated less air time to the Opposition Leader’s reply to Budget 2010 than was given to the Prime Minister a week earlier.

Also on behalf of the Labour Party, Owen Bonnici said that the media has a lot of power and influence on society, and hence should reach out and appeal to everyone. More emphasis needs to be placed in creating a variety of new innovative programmes. Moreover, it is a common fact that the standards of Maltese and English on Maltese TV leave much to be desired, and more attention needs to take place to improve the situation. With the Internet playing such an important role in today’s society, the PBS should also try and set up an efficient Internet website.

Government MP Edwin Vassallo acknowledged the fact that the PBS needs a leap in quality. With broadcasters effectively taking on the role of educators when on air, Mr Vassallo called for those in charge to eradicate any potential discrimination of race, sex, ethnicity and disability on local TV. As the family continues to remain the cornerstone of society, Maltese TV needs to cater for all ages, added Mr Vassallo.

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