The Malta Independent 21 May 2024, Tuesday
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Impartial? TVM’s presidential coverage included three ex-PL ministers, nobody from Opposition

Albert Galea Friday, 5 April 2024, 12:29 Last update: about 3 months ago

While supposedly governed by impartiality, Television Malta’s coverage of the swearing in of Malta’s 11th President on Thursday included three former Labour ministers and nobody from the Opposition on a number of panels throughout the day.

State broadcaster TVM ran a full day of media coverage surrounding the swearing in of Myriam Spiteri Debono on Thursday – coverage which included several discussion panels speaking about various subjects related to the presidency.

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Despite supposedly being an impartial television station, TVM chose to give airtime to three politicians who served as ministers in Labour Party governments, a well-known Labour Party columnist, but nobody from the ranks of the Opposition.

Among those was European Commissioner Helena Dalli who, when asked about the importance that Spiteri Debono was the first President to be chosen after a Constitutional requirement for there to be a two-thirds majority in Parliament for her appointment, went off on a tirade criticising the Nationalist Party’s decision to not want to accept anybody from the Joseph Muscat-era as a potential candidate for the role.

“This conversation is not over because there was a small nucleus of people in the Nationalist Party which excluded certain people for very unfair reasons, and reasons which are not serious to be considered,” Dalli said when asked about this subject.

It is an open secret that Helena Dalli was being considered as one of the frontrunners to become Malta’s 11th President – that was until the PN said that they would not back anybody who was a part of Joseph Muscat’s Cabinet in the past.

“Certain accusations were made on people… they said that they have blood on their hands because they were in Cabinet in a certain period of Maltese history,” she said.

“On the two-thirds, we saw that it can work when there is good will – yes it results in political maturity, but it has not resulted in political maturity in our country because up to the point that we got here, there was a lot of unjust discourse on many serious people, who gave their lives and time for their country and its people – all their time to the country, politics, and people – but that can be discussed another time,” she continued.

There was nobody to rebut her on her statements, as it was former European Commissioner Karmenu Vella - who was a PL MP between 1976 and 2014 and served as a Minister at different times when the Labour Party was in power, who sat next to her on the panel.

Meanwhile, TVM’s first summary of the new President’s first speech on the television broadcast failed to make mention of her statements speaking out against financial greed, and her description of the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination as an “open wound” which is “still bleeding.”

The final panel of the day then was made up by Alex Sceberras Trigona, another long-time Labour Party politician who served as Foreign Minister between 1981 and 1987 and who was appointed as Special Envoy of the Prime Minister when Joseph Muscat came to power in 2013, and academic and former long-time Torca columnist Godfrey Pirotta.

The first panel of the day meanwhile, which discussed the legacy of the George Vella presidency, was made up of University of Malta academic Mario Thomas Vassallo, and Claire Micallef Pule, who works with the Malta Community Chest Fund.

TVM’s impartiality has long come under the microscope, with the Nationalist Party consistently filing complaints to the Broadcasting Authority and arguing that the Opposition is not given the same exposure that the government is given, and also arguing that there is political bias in the way TVM reports certain news.

Just over a week ago in fact, the Broadcasting Authority found the state broadcaster guilty of imbalance in its broadcasting of interviews with government and Opposition representatives during news bulletins.

The authority reached this verdict when analysing the news bulletins over 11 months - April 2023 and February 2024 – following a complaint by PN over the national broadcaster's imbalance in one news bulletin.

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