The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Dr Francis Zammit Dimech’s book on the Public Service Broadcaster

Kevin Aquilina Sunday, 4 December 2022, 09:27 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Role, Duties and Obligations of the Public Service Broadcaster in Malta. Author: Francis Zammit Dimech. Publisher: Kite Group, Hamrun, 2022. Pages: 454pp

Dr Francis Zammit Dimech has published a monograph on the role, duties and obligations of the Public Service Broadcaster in Malta. Although there are a number of writings on this subject, this is the first publication that offers a very comprehensive, thorough and detailed study of public broadcasting services in Malta from a legal perspective. Dr Zammit Dimech, indeed, is not a novice both to the worlds of academia and publishing, apart of course from other attributes he has ranging from his contribution to Maltese and European politics including being responsible for broadcasting when he held the office of Minister and, more recently, orally presenting complaints before the Broadcasting Authority. He has authored two previous books, The Poll of '76 and The Untruth Game. He has lectured for several years at the Faculty of Laws of the University of Malta on Broadcasting Law and European Media Law and all these factors taken together, undoubtedly, place him in the best possible position to assess the role, duties and obligations of the public service broadcasting from a juridical perspective.

The topic of this meticulous work has not been sufficiently explored in Maltese legal literature. His contribution is therefore timely, innovative and brings in a breath of fresh air to Maltese Media Law. It is a very thoroughly researched publication that attempts to discuss the myriad roles, duties and obligations of the Maltese public service broadcaster in a single volume.

Although the oeuvre is uniquely focused on Maltese Media Law, it goes without saying that reference has inevitably had to be made to United Kingdom Law, Italian Law, EU Media Law and Council of Europe Conventions (in particular, the Transfrontier Television Without Frontiers Convention and the European Convention of Human Rights) in so far as these are sources of, and have constituted in the passage of time an influence upon, Maltese Media Law.

What has struck me most in this tome is the depth of the research undertaken and its breath and comprehensiveness. Practically, nearly all domestic sources on the subject have been identified and unearthed bearing in mind that pertinent Media Law cases have never been compiled to date, or discussed, let alone published, together with a number of reports, some of which are also not in the public domain. With the benefit of these novel sources not hitherto explored in legal literature, the monograph therefore constitutes a valid and robust contribution to originality and human knowledge.

Furthermore, the topic of the book is discussed from all possible aspects: historical, comparative, international, and analytical, and is the first that explores Maltese Media Law, not only in relation to public service broadcasting legislation but also to Maltese Media Law in general, thereby making it a pioneering and original vade mecum of publishable quality.

This publication is very well written, convincingly argued, descriptive in parts and analytical in perspective in other parts, critical in nature, well researched in so far as case law and reports are concerned, prospective in outlook, identifies the main idiosyncrasies of Maltese judgments on the public service broadcaster, its chapters flow, is very original in detecting deficiencies in both the text of the law and the interpretation given thereto by case law, constitutes a very comprehensive rendering of the subject which studies Maltese Media Public Broadcasting Service Law from the angle of English and Italian law, EU Law, Council of Europe international instruments and the historical development of Maltese Media Law that is the bedrock upon which the edifice of Public Service Broadcasting Law is constructed. It elegantly meshes together, in a coherent fashion, the overlaps of Media Law with Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, Human Rights Law, and EU Law, and provides salient recommendations for improvement to the text of extant statute law.

Public service broadcasting has proved, over the years, to be a very controversial subject. It has been used and abused by successive governments and reformed many times as can well be gleaned from the historical survey. Yet what one notices when flipping through the pages is that Dr Zammit Dimech adopts a very neutral, objective and impartial stance in relation to all these controversies and subjects discussed in his volume that enable the reader to reach his or her own independent conclusions without these being forced down his or her throat. Such an unpassionate approach makes the publication academic in nature because while where criticism of the legal regime is needed it is made, the book does not end up to be a tedious opinionated rending of the subject under consideration.

This book thus has several pluses. It is also updated to include practically all the events, laws, judgments and reports as at August of this year - it cannot be more current than that. It will surely serve well not only the legal profession but also persons who entertain an interest in communication, media studies, broadcasting, journalism, cultural affairs, legal history, European Union matters and, generally, Maltese affairs.

 

Kevin Aquilina is Professor of Law, Faculty of Laws, University of Malta


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