The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: PBS-government - A case of gatekeeping

Wednesday, 9 May 2018, 09:32 Last update: about 4 years ago

It happens in every legislature that the party in Opposition complains of bias in favour of the government on the Public Broadcasting Services. There is always a predisposition towards whoever is running Castille by those working for or, better still, running the show at the State-owned media.

But what has taken place in the past years, since the Labour Party is in government, is a direct affront to the people who are paying their taxes to sustain what should be a public service. It happened openly in the first Joseph Muscat legislature, and it has intensified since Labour was returned to government a second consecutive time.

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The way that the PBS newsroom, run by Reno Bugeja, is somersaulting to act as a gatekeeper to any story that puts the government in bad light is disgraceful. The opposite side of the coin is that any achievement – big and small – is highlighted as if it was the discovery of the wheel.

We are close, if not already there, to a situation the older generations saw happen in the 1980s. “Run, rabbit, run” is all that is needed to complete the circle.

It is never a good feeling that we, as journalists, have to criticise other media. Our aim is not to censure our colleagues most of whom, we are sure, also feel uncomfortable with the way the public broadcasting system is being administered.

The happenings of the last days are a case in point.

The way PBS is reporting the revelations made by a consortium of news outlets who have followed up stories that were being investigated by slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia would be described as amateurish if there wasn’t the idea to belittle them.

But, yes, PBS is not being amateurish here. It is playing its part in the government’s strategy.  

It is conveniently under-reporting important news items from its listeners, viewers and readers, all because what is being disclosed is harmful to the government’s reputation, and that of some of its top officials. When one compares PBS reporting to that of (Super) One, there is little difference in approach; it is no wonder that some have resorted to describing PBS as being “Super Two”.

Thankfully, PBS is not the only media outlet. In the 1980s, its share of relevance was much larger simply because, in those eventful years, it ran the only TV and radio station in Malta, and was countered by three daily newspapers. One of them – l-orizzont – was part of the Labour regime because, at the time, the General Workers Union had a seat on the Cabinet of Ministers.

Today, things are different because there are more TV and radio stations, the independent media has mushroomed and the social media has become one of the main sources of information. What PBS reports today can easily be weighed up against what other outlets are reporting – and this is why PBS stands out more as a sore thumb.

What is strange is that the Nationalist Party is keeping its mouth shut on this situation. But, then again, the PN is staying silent on many other things, not only PBS.

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