Broadcasting Authority’s rude awakening

Of course, Norman Lowell is no common citizen and the BA complied to his wishes

The Broadcasting Authority has fined Church radio station RTK €1,750 after presenter Andrew Azzopardi described the far-rightist Norman Lowell as “xenophobic and racist” in a broadcast last October (Photo: Facebook)
The Broadcasting Authority has fined Church radio station RTK €1,750 after presenter Andrew Azzopardi described the far-rightist Norman Lowell as “xenophobic and racist” in a broadcast last October (Photo: Facebook)

In a surprising rude awakening, the normally dormant Broadcasting Authority (BA) fined RTK - the church owned radio station - €1,750 after programme host Andrew Azzopardi said he would never allow ‘racist’ Norman Lowell on his show.

Azzopardi's declaration and his description of Lowell were made last October when he interviewed the CEO of the Broadcasting Authority, Joanna Spiteri, about the BA's rules on fairness.

Lowell is the leader of his right-wing ‘political party’, Imperium Europa. In 2013, an appeals court confirmed a Magistrates' Court judgment finding Lowell guilty of three charges of inciting racial hatred. Andrew Azzopardi’s opinion of Lowell is, therefore hardly capricious.

In a statement, RTK 103 described the BA’s decision as ‘illogical’ and added that the constitutional role of the authority “needs to be reviewed with urgency before it becomes a circus authority which endangers the fundamental principles it ought to defend.”

Programme host Andrew Azzopardi had said he would not give Norman Lowell airtime on his programme to broadcast his racist views. Azzopardi reacted by saying that with its decision, the Broadcasting Authority was ‘indirectly defending’ a person convicted of inciting racial hatred.

The confusion that led to the BA decision is incredible. Consider that:

•  The BA does not seem to be aware that its rules during the run-up of an election are different from its own rules in other times. At the moment, there is no election run-up and Norman Lowell is not actually an election candidate although he is expected to be one in the MEP elections later this year. In October when Azzopardi made this declaration the MEP elections were very far away, timewise. Hence the strict political balance applicable during an election campaign was not normally required by the BA itself.

•  Andrew Azzopardi has every right to state that he is not prepared to invite Norman Lowell to participate in the programme he hosts. The BA seems to confuse Andrew Azzopardi’s programme with RTK itself. It is not RTK policy to interfere with the constraints that Azzopardi follows while planning his programme. More so, when it leads to political imbalance during the run up to an election. I believe that a declaration to this effect by the radio station should have sufficed.

I have no doubt that the BA’s decision, not being as a result of some comment broadcast during a run-up to an election when strict political balance is expected, is tantamount to censorship and an attack on the freedom of expression that is protected by our Constitution and our adherence to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

This BA boob cannot remain unchallenged and, in my opinion, both Andrew Azzopardi and RTK should seek redress in the Constitutional Court. If their challenge is not entertained by the Court, they can follow up this action in the ECHR in Strasbourg.

From the proceedings of this case, it is obvious that the BA does not monitor radio stations but only reacts when it receives a complaint. Otherwise it is dead asleep. In deep slumber, it seems. Until someone wakes it up with some frivolous complaint!

It is well known that the way the constitutional provisions that the Broadcasting Authority seeks to defend were designed when there was a state broadcasting monopoly and Malta did not enjoy the freedom of the airwaves with private radio and television stations.

This problem has been ignored by all Maltese administrations – both Labour and PN – ever since.

It is by now obvious that any appeal to the two main political parties to do something on the situation will just be ignored. The parties each have a radio and a television station where imbalance runs riot on the perfidious assumption that they balance each other out.

Both Labour and the PN seem to think that this state of uncertainty is in their interest, so they do nothing about it, while the common citizen is actually being ignored.

Of course, Norman Lowell is no common citizen and the BA complied to his wishes.

READ ALSO: Imperium Europa right of reply

Can AI beat Maltese impudence?

Driving in Malta has become a much worse nightmare than it ever was.

Try slowing down to check a door number or a shop or try – that big treacherous treasure hunt – finding a house name where no numbers exist! The amount of tooting from the car behind you is incredible. Sometimes, it seems to start as soon as you think of slowing down.

I have concluded that the short span of time taken for the tooting to start depends on the colour of a driver’s hair. My white hair, apparently, revs up the urgency of the driver following me. If it was a woman – my wife insists – the urgency goes up yet another notch.

The amount of ever increasing traffic in our small island has led to a pandemic of impatience compounded by rudeness. It is a particular kind of impudence that can only be described as typically Mediterranean. A slight decrease in speed detonates the venomous power that is infused into Maltese drivers sitting behind a windscreen. It is out of this world.

In this scenario, Alexiei Dingli’s intended foray to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to ameliorate the problematic traffic situation is commendable. Hence the creation of the ‘digital traffic brain’. May he succeed!

According to a recently published article of his (Times of Malta, 23 January) using AI can do the trick of ameliorating Malta’s traffic, ‘by optimising and improving what we already have’, rather than making more lengthy and costly infrastructural improvements.

Dingli insists that by using advanced algorithms ‘AI adjusts traffic light timings, tidal lanes and other control measures to optimise traffic flow.’ The system even identifies traffic violations using advanced image recognition and alerts local authorities to take action against the offending driver. Hopefully, this identification is limited to the number of the vehicle being driven by the offending driver.

According to Dingli’s claims, the system goes beyond traffic management because ‘it harnesses the power of a specialised app, seamlessly integrating with existing navigation solution.’

What can one say to that, except to thank profusely entrepreneur Mark Bajada who is forking out €1.3 million to fund the development of this incredible AI solution.