Journalism in Malta does not enjoy the best of reputations. One of the reasons for this is because a substantial number of locally-based journalists are politically affiliated and their bias is all too evident. It is quite commonplace to see that the Labour and Nationalist media stations portray totally opposite views of where the country stands and is heading. This naturally raises the question, as to whether political parties should own media stations.
In a society where journalism is controlled by political parties, the news is not communicated for the public interest, but to serve politicians. When journalists serve at the whim of the political parties that pay them, they cannot deliver news which is impartial, being reduced to a cog in an even larger propaganda machine. Their sole objective becomes to promote their political party in a quest for power.
In view of the fact that political parties own media stations, many argue that this fundamentally breaches the rule of law. This is also combined with the fact that such media stations are heavily reliant on donations by big businesses. This leaves several avenues for potential conflicts of interest, where businesses expect favours in return for the donations they give.
Considering that Maltese politics is split into a duopoly, parties enjoy a lack of accountability. One example would be the fact that both did not publish their audited accounts for years. They are also given flexibility when it comes to their water and electricity bills. These are benefits that normal companies do not normally enjoy. This is accompanied by the frustration that local businesses need to watch their steps in ensuring compliance due to the fears caused by the potential grey listing by Moneyval.
These media stations are backed by significant viewership, including loyal party followers who would not imagine life without politically owned media. This serves as the perfect framework for political parties to continue pushing their message and ascertaining the loyalty of the existing follower base.
Malta’s Broadcasting Authority is composed of representatives of the two main political parties. Some argue that this may continue to ensure the prosperity of politically owned stations when compared to independent media. This makes it more difficult for independent media operators to sustain their businesses.
What are your views in relation to politically owned media stations? Do you think that political parties should own media of their own? Let us know your views in the comments section below.