Major surgery is needed

Founded in 1961 when Malta was still a British colony and the world was a very different place, the BA’s functions need to be revisited and based on one guiding principle, that the news should be truthful and relevant

Not many people realise what a waste of time the Broadcasting Authority is. Created 64 years ago, since then it has not updated its remit and role… or if it has, in a very superficial way.

Only three days ago, it issued guidelines for reporting the European parliamentary election. I believe the wording of the guidelines comes straight from the Chief Executive’s pen who happens to be a certain Joanna Spiteri, a well-meaning person but someone who is detached from the realities of the media world in 2024.

The statement outlines the way everyone in the broadcasting field should act during the run up to the election. But it goes further and specifies that reportage of the President of the EU parliament or specific individuals should be measured and calibrated. Those are my words.

In other words, Roberta Metsola, should not be touched.

It is of course what in Maltese we would describe as a first class ‘pudina’.

The BA is living in yesteryear.

Now, if my information is correct, this decision was purely determined by Spiteri herself. As was the decision to treat right wing political groups as if they were mainstream parties with noble ideas.

We criticise political parties for having their nominees on boards and authorities but give me a politician any day to a stuffy civil servant who suffers from tunnel vision and thinks the world is made of boxes and squares.

The thing about the BA, is that the authority itself is composed of individuals who are nominated by the Labour Party and Nationalist Party. And I am slightly confused why these representatives never seem to find the time to raise some pertinent questions with Spiteri.

If these party reps have no time for the BA, the parties should see that they are replaced by motivated personalities.

It came as a surprise that the PN hit out (justifiably) at the BA over the latest election directive because the authority is a representation of what the main political parties want it to be.

The BA is not Joanna Spiteri and her posse of civil servants. The political parties’ representatives should have the courage to call a spade a spade.

The BA has been outdated before Spiteri became CEO. For years, under different chief executives and chairpersons, it has been an anachronistic authority that has not moved on with the times and with the evolution of the media.

No one is saying that the BA should be disbanded, but what I am saying is that it needs serious surgery.

The farcical part of the BA statement on reporting EU matters is that in the statement the authority declared that the guidelines do not apply to printed and online platforms.

How bloody patronising. The BA has never had any authority over the printed and online media and that is how it should stay.

Founded in 1961 when Malta was still a British colony and the world was a very different place, the BA’s functions need to be revisited and based on one guiding principle, that the news should be truthful and relevant. When it is not, it should intervene.

Relevance comes about when all subjects are discussed.

That something is not truthful and relevant is not going to be solved by the BA but by having good journalists who are free to act and report without hindrance.

The BA should be one of the issues the newly appointed President could tackle with the powers that be. But I very much doubt whether Myriam Spiteri Debono is fully aware of the way the media landscape has changed since the time she was active in politics.

The BA is not only a dinosaur but a living fossil.

For example, it carries out this very dubious survey on programme visibility and audience following. And it extends this survey to printed and online media.

The stark truth is that audience surveys for the broadcast media should not be gauged by surveys when there is technical data in hand that can provide audience measurement.

In terms of TV, Go and Melita have statistics and data of which programmes are watched and by whom. That data is often leaked to third parties. Much of that data contradicts what appears in the very shoddy survey provided to BA. Most significantly, in the case of online platforms, analytics provide micro details of the numbers and demographics of audiences. In the case of printed media, all print owners have verified audits of their sales.

So even on this level, the BA is not only incompetent but largely out of synch with reality.

The pity is that thanks to its constitutional role it still has status.

But that status must be questioned and quizzed. The political parties elected in parliament should at least start this debate for the good of the media scene.

The Prime Minister and the Opposition leader need to bury the hatchet and tackle this matter in a mundane fashion. We need to start tackling the bigger picture.


The Albanian man who died in another construction incident has no mother or family who will galvanise public opinion to cry out for justice. Once again, the system appears to have failed again to stamp out abuse.

The truth is that we are miles away from getting our act together because this small country has been turned into one massive construction site. And there is no end in sight to this nightmare.