Conviction or convenience?

It goes without saying that it would have made more sense for the Nationalist Party to discuss issues such as full-time MPs when in government rather than in Opposition, especially once they had been raised by one of their own party

5 April 2017, 8:29am
as a Nationalist backbencher I had invited a discussion about the subject proposing a smaller Parliament of full-time MPs
as a Nationalist backbencher I had invited a discussion about the subject proposing a smaller Parliament of full-time MPs
Almost five years after I raised in Parliament the issue of full-time members of Parliament, the subject seems to have taken this country by storm sparked by a comment by Opposition Leader in the context of PN party financing scandal.

On the 7th March 2012 during sitting number 455 of the last legislature, in fact, as a Nationalist backbencher I had invited a discussion about the subject proposing a smaller Parliament of full-time MPs within the wider context of a Holistic Constitutional and Justice Reform – www.riformagustizzja.com - including the draft Bill on Party Finance that has become law during this legislature whilst ignored during the past one.

In March 2012 the current Opposition Leader was Lawrence Gonzi’s special delegate to connect to society, whilst Tonio Borg, now included in the PN commission to evaluate this proposal, was deputy prime Minister. Highly ranking within government, they had all the clout to push for a discussion on this and other constitutional and justice proposals I had made.

As far as I can remember, not only both ignored my proposals five years ago, but they went as far as banning me from contesting the following election after voting in Parliament, as I had every right to do, against the person who was blocking constitutional and justice reform (which I had proposed and subsequently later confirmed by the Bonello Report), and currently being implemented.

It goes without saying that it would have made more sense for the Nationalist Party to discuss such issues when in government rather than in Opposition, especially once they had been raised by one of their own party in Parliament and within the same party itself.

Such failure could also throw serious doubts about the motive behind raising such issues five years later. Conviction or convenience?

Dr Franco Debono LLD,
Valletta

Time is ripe for Broadcasting Authority reform

Following the resignation of Broadcasting Authority chairperson Tanya Borg Cardona, government has an opportunity to rise above the tribal political division and reform an authority which sadly represents the political parties and their partisan interests rather than the Maltese people in general. 

The Broadcasting Authority chairperson should be appointed by a Parliamentary Committee after a public call for applications.

This would guarantee independence, especially when the authority’s board is responsible to ensure that public broadcasting is impartial and fair.  

The authority’s regulations are already skewed in favour of the big parties. The notion that political parties ‘balance each other out’ renders a disservice to democracy, pluralism and quality in broadcasting.

The authority must encourage and not discourage pluralism of ideas and modes of expression.

Now is the time to change the way the authority operates and ensure that at least the public broadcaster gives more space to smaller parties and civil society, who unlike the two major parties do not own and control media empires. 

The most urgent issue to be addressed is the authority’s composition. 

The Broadcasting Authority should be truly independent, and should be led by professionals and civil society representatives not political appointees. 

Despite its function as a Constitutional Body, two members are chosen by the Prime Minister, two members are chosen by the Leader of the Opposition, and the chairperson is nominated by the minister responsible for broadcasting or by the Prime Minister. 

Effectively, the authority is controlled by persons chosen by and in the interests of the two main political parties. This enforces the perception that political interests come before the public interest, which erodes trust in the authority itself.

A reformed authority should primarily work to raise standards of broadcasting in Malta and protect viewers and listeners and not political parties. 

The presence of broadcasting experts together with civil society representatives would help bring a paradigmatic change in broadcasting and give it a much needed breath of fresh air.

Edward Busuttil, Birkirkara