The Malta Independent 26 June 2022, Sunday

PN working on plan for its media company to break even in 14 months

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 19 June 2022, 09:30 Last update: about 7 days ago

A plan is being worked on that aims to see the Nationalist Party’s media company, Media.Link, operationally break even in 14 months, PN secretary general Michael Piccinino told The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Opposition Leader Bernard Grech had said, in April, that the Party was around €32m in debt. He had also said that every month the Party is losing thousands of euros in its media company, which makes it unsustainable.  

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In an interview with this newsroom, Piccinino was asked about the Party’s €32m debt, whether the Party has a plan to tackle it and what its first steps will be.

“Everyone who votes for the Party or is active in the Party has an interest in all that the Party does. So when Bernard Grech announced just how big the problem is, the aim was for everyone to be made aware of what the primary issue is.”

There are two different points – the sustainability of the Party’s commercial companies and the general Party’s operations – for the debt to be tackled, he said.

He said that a plan will be put forward to the Media.Link board for approval, which will then be sent to the Party’s administrative arm, so that in the 14 months to come the media company would, operationally, break even. As such, he said, it would not continue losing money, and while the Party media would remain in place, the Party will improve it "and ensure that it does not continue to add on to the Party’s financial problems”.

The plan for Media.Link, he said, is being finalised. “The department managers are focusing on their particular areas and looking at how we can be more efficient and how we can make more money with certain maximisation of opportunities that there could be. If there are costs that could be cut, they will be cut and this will, in the coming weeks, be put forward for approval.”

On the other hand, he said that the PN Leader will see to it that there will be a group of experts to see how the Party can tackle the issue of debt globally.

“What we definitely need to see to is the maximisation of each property, each asset the Party has, to find the wisest way to use our Party clubs for instance, and look at how we can use the other properties we have so that we can make money in order for us to pay interest etc.,” Piccinino said.

Asked what some of the ideas being thrown around for Media.Link are, Piccinino would not reveal any. “This is a commercial plan and we cannot speak about them publicly at this stage.”

 

Party clubs

Grech had commented that one way the Nationalist Party will be strengthening its financial assets is by reviving closed Party clubs. Asked what the Party has in mind, Piccinino highlighted that the Party clubs have two roles.

Piccinino said that there is the traditional bar, meaning the club where people would go and meet up. “Here, we need to commercialise as much as possible. So if there is a place which potentially can be turned into a restaurant or a place that can bring in more money, then we should go for that and ensure that the Party, commercially, brings in as much finances as possible.”

“The second is that the scope of having a political club, which is a political office, is to have political activity inside it – to hold political discussions and political activities, for it to be a place where candidates and MPs might also conduct some level of customer care."

"So you would be using your assets to make money from commercial activity while also taking political value from the same place.”

Asked whether the Party has excluded the idea of selling off any Party clubs at this stage, he said that the immediate plan is not to sell, but to maximise the commercial revenue from such clubs. "But one cannot exclude what could happen in the future."

 

Elections

The MEP elections are set to be held in 2024. There have been concerns as to whether the Party has the funds to put up a good showing when those elections come around. Asked whether he shares such concerns, the PN secretary general said that every election is always a challenge from the financial aspect. He said that the Party conducts specific fundraising for every election campaign. “It is a separate effort from those efforts of the Party's operations. Every election costs money, but I am confident that we will manage, as we have always done, to raise the necessary funds to continue spreading the Party's message.”

“Obviously times are changing and we also need to be creative as to how we will spread our message in the best possible way today, with the least amounts of money being spent.”

Grech had also previously said that a serious and immediate restructuring of the Party is the only way to move forward.

Asked what the Party has in mind, Piccinino said a number of things need to happen. He mentioned looking at how the Party branches can be more efficient and better achieve their goals.

As for the sectional committees, which are essentially the committees in each locality, he asked whether the time has come to discuss, in 2022, what the main aims of such committees are to help better spread the Party's message in the localities, to also share the message of the people in the locality back to the Party, and that there is more of their political involvement.

He also said they want to look at the changes made to the PN’s statute two years ago and see if anything needs to be improved or modified from the experience they have had thus far.

 

Moving forward

In March, the Nationalist Party lost the general election to the Labour Party by over 39,000 votes. He was asked what the plan is moving forward given the size of the gap between the two parties.

He said that the Party's efforts for the elections to come, for the local council and EU Parliament elections as well as the next general election, must start now. "You cannot wait for an election to come round and then see what to do about it."

“From now, especially after summer, we will start approving candidates for the three elections. You would thus start having people knocking on doors from now, and not a year or two prior to an election.”

The policy aspect also starts now, he said, adding that after summer the Party clusters will be functioning as they were prior to the election. He said that from now one would start to see the continuous updating of Party policies and “we will start seeing from now how to create a sustainable plan for five years”. This would see people continuously knocking on doors, receiving feedback, researching what happens elsewhere to see that what the Party proposes is sustainable, he said.

“The communications team is working to spread the Party's message. All this work must happen now. I think that we need to use this summer, especially, to reflect and see what needs to change internally to strengthen the basis of all of this. There is internal reflection and review, identifying what needs to be done to improve on our product.”

Asked further about the electoral loss, he said that the Party is going to look at each Party structure, individually, to analyse what they could have done better and how they can strengthen each one. "But that is obviously something that we must look at area by area, and we already started working to strengthen some areas.”

He said the Party will, in each department, see what they can learn from the past five years and improve them.

 

Elcom

He mentioned that a new Elcom director, Alex Vassallo, was recently appointed, after Boris Scerri stepped down. “We thank Alex for taking up this role and also thank the former director Boris Scerri, who will continue to help us."

Piccinino said that Elcom will restructure itself so that, aside from taking care of the basic electoral functions, it would also be able to see that the Party's electoral engine would be strengthened across the board over the whole five years. "And so also here, we would see to it that there would be better coordination with the communication's office, the organisational office, other structures, and thus there be better synergy in all we do so that the Party will prepare for the coming elections."

He said that the reason Scerri stepped down was as he felt that it would be good for someone else to take over due to other commitments he has.

PN MP Joe Giglio had made certain statements about Maria Efimova, including that he has “serious reservations” about her, among other things. It was then reported that Bernard Grech said Giglio's doubts about Efimova's credibility do not reflect the Party's position. The PN said there should be a distinction between the MP's profession and politics. Asked about this, and whether the PN believes Efimova's version or if what it meant in its statement was that it would want to wait and see what emerges in the future, he said: “The Party always had trust in the justice system, in our courts. So if there are a number of investigations, inquiries, potentially even court procedures, those need to take their time and we trust in the system and must see what will happen."

"What is sure is that on all those stories there are a number of procedures ongoing, a number of inquiries. They have to take their course and the Police must continue in their work, so as to conclude them as quickly as possible. It is also important that, on the many stories we hear about, the Police don't just wait for a magistrate to do their job for them and order them to launch an investigation, but be proactive and do what they need to do.”

 

 

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