The Malta Independent 9 December 2018, Sunday

PBS Regularly used for government propaganda – Evarist Bartolo

Malta Independent Friday, 8 April 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 9 years ago

TVM, Malta’s national television station, which is operated by the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS), continues to remain heavily manipulated by the government, so much so that it is considered to be the best tool to showcase government propaganda, Evarist Bartolo, Labour MP, told the House of Representatives last Wednesday.

Such is the extent of the government’s stronghold over PBS, that on certain occasions, Mr Bartolo said, some of PBS’ highest members of staff sought the approval of ministers, and in some cases, even of the prime minister, before they were appointed in their roles.

Furthermore, Mr Bartolo added that PBS, through its pro-government propaganda, played a major part in the PN snatching victory in the 2008 general election from the jaws of defeat.

If Malta wants to truly have a democratic society, then it must change the way PBS is operated, he said.

Mr Bartolo said that while PBS is funded through a government grant and earns much of its revenue through commercial advertising, the majority of its news programmes tilt in the government’s favour.

Although the past 20 years have seen the end of mass media, and TV programmes have become more family-oriented, depending on the time of the day, the majority of TVM’s 8pm news bulletins are always pro-government, he reiterated.

The government should take note of what happens in other EU countries, most notably the UK, wherein contracts between the BBC and the British government over funds are allocated as stipulated in a contract which is renewed every 10 years.

This means that the odds are high that the BBC operates under a legislature of two governments of different political parties during this time frame.

In Malta, on the other hand, the government intervenes when it comes to what type of content PBS can show on TVM and how long programmes should last.

Mr Bartolo stressed that for Malta to become a more democratic country, a change in the way PBS operates is necessary and urged the government to follow in the footsteps of other more democratic EU states whose media is, in the majority, neutral.

Speaking after Mr Bartolo, Justyne Caruana, another Labour MP, said that although disability rights have improved in recent years, it is very discriminatory that only the 6pm news, and repetitions of the popular Friday night TV show Xarabank, are shown in sign language.

Although proposals have long been promised to introduce TVM’s 8pm news with sign language, such promises have never materialised.

Considering that TV now plays a very important part in people’s lives, the government needs to ensure that Malta’s national TV station caters for everyone, Dr Caruana said.

Taking the time to speak about the digital switchover, which will take place on 1 June in line with EU wishes, parliamentary assistant Charlo Bonnici said that thanks to the switchover, viewers will be able to watch more local TV stations. In all, six stations will be going through the digital switchover, including TVM.

He stressed that the digital switchover will affect only viewers of free-to-air Maltese TV channels using the conventional aerial and will not affect GO or Melita subscribers, who do not need to do anything to watch the free-to-air Maltese TV stations in digital. All these TV stations will be available with all the TV packages provided by Go and Melita.

Any changes made by the TV service providers to their TV packages result from commercial decisions taken by the service providers and are unrelated to the digital switchover, Mr Bonnici said.

MP Leo Brincat was highly critical of the company which produces some of PBS’ news and entertainment programmes ‘Where’s Everybody?’, whose journalists are mostly biased interviewers and journalists in favour of the government, he said.

He also criticised Natalino Fenech, the head of news at PBS, whom he described as “an untouchable” and lamented that a lot of bureaucracy was shown last year towards one TV programme which was enjoyed by much of the public and which is widely acknowledged to be one of the most neutral programmes on TV – Dissett.

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