What a Wonder Ball!

The howlers on TVM’s quiz programme are funny. But they are also a sad reflection of the way the public broadcaster works... and of its abandonment of its responsibility to the citizens who finance it

There are mistakes and there are howlers. When a howler is delivered by some 10-year old in class, his or her classroom mates would be showing a sadistic childish pleasure in making fun of whoever it is. In this scenario, it is called bullying.

When the howler is said by an adult participating voluntarily in a television programme, making fun of it is not bullying. It is just plain making fun.

Two recent howlers on the quiz programme ‘Wonderball’ have been doing the rounds on social media - one about a reply on where the atom bombs were exploded in World War II (surely not Birgu!) and one about a participant ‘mistaking’ the Arc de Triomphe in Paris for Port de Bombes in Blata-l-bajda.

The quiz master reacted via a long interview on l-orizzont last Wednesday saying that social media have become a tool to murder - metaphorically - people. According to him, making fun of stupidity is wrong and harms whoever is being made fun of.

I suppose that according to this guy, making fun of the Prime Minister or of the Leader of the Opposition is fine but making fun of adults who voluntarily went to participate in a quiz in which the questions were beyond their depth is wrong.

Here comes the responsibility of whoever runs these quizzes. How is the level of knowledge decided upon when organising a quiz programme on TV?

How are would-be prospective partcipants assessed as to whether their level of knowledge is less than the standard expected from them? One would expect that not every Tom, Dick and Harry is automatically accepted to participate in quiz programmes and that some sort of assessment is made of those who want to participate.

To me it seems that no such assessments were made by the presenter of the programme... who then went on a two-page tirade on l-orizzont to exculpate himself from the reponsibility of exposing adults to situations where they are expected to answer questions beyond their knowledge.

This is more of an issue of general knowledge than of ‘intelligence’ per se - although people often mix the two issues, albeit they do overlap sometimes. In Maltese, we use the word ‘injorant/a’ (ignorant) to denote both lack of intelligence and lack of knowledge, when in fact, they are two different concepts

People who think that organising quizzes on TV is something easy, exhibit the arrogance of amatuers. Not everybody is a Mike Buongiorno, but there are many who think they can easily emulate him - without any real in-depth thinking, of course.

This is another example of the absolutely amatuerish way in which our national broadcaster is run.

The people who were the butt of so many on-line jokes are the victims of this amatuerish way of doing things and not of the televiewers who made fun of them - as they had every right to do.

PBS has long ago dropped the education of televiewers as one of its obligations. So, dishing rubbish to its viewers is nothing new.

This is of course, absolutely irresponsible. Competing with private stations is important, but PBS renouncing its obligation to present educational programmes in order to keep up with the competition is completely wrong.

Decent and intelligent television series like ‘L-ispettur Bonnici’ and ‘Deċeduti’ are no longer in fashion on PBS. So long as the ignorant masses enjoy the inanities resulting from cheap productions, TVM - and presumably the responsible minister - think they are delivering!

The howlers on TVM’s quiz programme are funny. But they are also a sad reflection of the way the public broadcaster works... and of its abandonment of its responsibility to the citizens who finance it.

Wave power

A recent report on euronews.green covered the story of Inna Braverman, a Ukrainian whose family emigrated when she was four and grew up in Israel. Upon graduating she found it hard to find a job and ended up working as a translator for a renewable energy company. It was here that she became inspired.

She realised that wind and solar were fields that everybody knew about, with the sectors already packed with competition while wave energy was something that all the engineers and the scientists really believed in but there was no company that was able to make it a reality.

Although 71% of the earth is covered by water only around 1.5% of global energy is produced through wave power. In the US, it is estimated that 66% of all energy needs could be met using wave power.

But sadly, the world is not doing enough to exploit this source of energy.

But choosing to construct power stations offshore, would result in huge installation and maintenance costs. And the stations are incredibly vulnerable during storms. Insurers realised that storm damage and total breakdown were a regular occurrence. It became almost impossible to get insurance, and consequently, funding.

Offshore wave power plants also became unpopular with environmentalists as the construction disrupted the seabed and the ecosystems living there

To combat these issues, Inna Braverman’s company - Eco Wave Power - brought the power station on land and the only part of the system in the water is the floaters that bob up and down with the waves. These, in turn, push hydraulic cylinders which build pressure in accumulators where the energy is stored. The floaters are attached to existing man-made structures such as piers, breakwaters and jetties.

The simplicity of the design makes it cheaper to install and maintain as well as being better protected from inclement weather and therefore, insurable.

A pilot station was installed in Gibraltar in 2016. It was the first wave energy system to be connected to the European grid and produced energy for six years. The station has now been removed and shipped to Los Angeles where it is awaiting installation.

But Gibraltar is currently planning to construct a new marina in an area with optimum waves where they hope to install a larger wave power plant.

It doesn’t seem that we in Malta have thought about this way of producing clean energy.

The sea around us is not short of waves and Minister Miriam Dalli would do well if her ministry were to investigate the possibility of Malta producing green electricity from the power of the waves in the sea that surrounds us.