The Malta Independent 23 April 2017, Sunday

Broadcasting Authority did not issue a single fine to TV, radio stations last year - BA staff

Rachel Attard Sunday, 19 March 2017, 09:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Not a single fine was issued by the Broadcasting Authority to any radio or television station which may have violated broadcasting regulations last year, Broadcasting Authority (BA) staff have told The Malta Independent.  This contrasts dramatically with previous years, where fines were issued against stations for breaches of broadcasting regulations.

Yesterday around half of the workers spoke to this newsroom and opened up about their concerns on the ongoing situation. Last Tuesday the BA employees started an unprecedented industrial action after the alleged “bullying” tactics employed by Chairperson Tanya Borg Cardona who, in one particular incident mentioned by  the employees insisted that “it’s either my way or the highway.”

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They also spoke about the thematic reports presented by the monitoring staff to the chairperson. “In the past year these reports were ignored since the issues raised in them were not addressed. We feel that we are being ignored, that we are working for nothing.”

The workers emphasised that the issues revolving around fines and thematic reports are very dangerous because the next election in practically around the corner and the authority needs to be vigilant. “Also, the board is not meeting once a week like it used to under previous chairpersons.”

On Wednesday The Malta Independent quoted a number of workers as saying that the situation at the BA was “untenable” and insisted they “cannot take it anymore.”

This week, the UHM-Voice of the Workers instructed the BA workers not to monitor current affairs programmes – one of the BA’s main duties to ensure balance – as well as to not answer phone calls or emails.

On Wednesday the BA issued a statement denying all allegations of bullying by the chairperson. The authority said that what the staff were saying was “untrue” and was “surely a result of a lack of communication between individuals within the authority.” It also said that the intentions and aims of the authority were always to place the strengthening of broadcasting before anything else, including the authority itself and the employees. This is what is happening and what will keep happening.”

 

Management

When asked by this newsroom what the management was telling the workers, the employees told us that “in December some persons from the management had encouraged us to speak to the UHM to try and take a stronger position but since then none of them is hearing our pleas.”

“We are not after cosmetic change but a change in vision. To show how much we wanted change, the authority, way back in 2015 commissioned Mr Joe Gerada, who he had published a report on the basis of what we told him. The unfortunate thing is that we never saw this report and the chairperson never referred to it.”

 

Bullying and insults

The workers also alleged that Mrs Borg Cardona constantly insults the workers. Yesterday the workers told this newsroom that they are very angry because “she is lying to our faces.” The 18 employees insisted that they were telling the truth.

This newsroom saw emails that the chairperson sent to the workers, in which she uses a number of adjectives, including: “since you are behaving like school children you will be treated as such.” In another she speaks about the workers’ “general apathy at the authority.” 

The BA staff have requested Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Minister Owen Bonnici to listen to them and to take action. “All we are asking for is to be respected and for the bullying to stop once and for all. We always had some issues with the chairpersons and management in the past, but we always managed to find common ground. This time the situation has degenerated.”

A number of employees also told this newsroom that the chairperson also criticised the way they dressed, telling some that they were “stuck in the 70’s.”

 

New Premises in Valletta

In June of last year the BA staff were told to start packing because they were going to move to Valletta.  Last Wednesday this paper said employees had been told by Mrs Borg Cardona that “we need to move from this ugly and old place.” They said that “her main reason for the move is purely for aesthetic purposes.”

Yesterday the workers told this newsroom that the new premises in Melita Street, Valletta were too small for their needs and that no risk assessment study was carried out. “It is so small that the authority is going to rent the basement in Harmun to store the tapes and other documents. These will be at risk of being damaged by the humidity.”  The UHM has said that the chairperson will take up one whole floor at the Valletta premises.

In an email seen by this newsroom, the chairperson told the staff that she does not want any personal things on the desks. “Personal items (frames, make up, shoes and all kinds of rubbish) can be left at home or in your handbags or car.” 

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