The political media today

The tone of the editorials of the GWU papers has recently become saner and more acceptable to the general public 

I will not enter into the merits of the reasons why this is so, but I recognise that this is a state of fact that the PN cannot alter
I will not enter into the merits of the reasons why this is so, but I recognise that this is a state of fact that the PN cannot alter

One of the most urgent things that needs to be tackled immediately by whoever is elected PN leader is a revamp of the party media.

The pary media – newspapers, radio and television – are in the doldrums, followed only by the party’s most faithful adherents and doing nothing to attract others by depicting the PN as something worth the attention of the ordinary citizen.

To be honest, I wonder how many people do, in fact, buy the newspapers owned by the PN today. In the past they used to sell more when the PN was in Opposition. But the past is past, even though many of the people running the PN media do not seem to have realised.

On the PN’s printed media there have been too many laughable – and outright ridiculous – stories under the guise of ‘investigative journalism’. Yet the two newspapers soldier on, apparently rudderless and without a serious and incisive political direction. In the past, I have had occasions where I pointed out some incredibly stupid stories in the PN papers to none other than Simon Busuttil himself. After some time, I gave up. 

It was obvious that the party leadership was occupied with other things that it considered more important. Simon Busuttil, however, must take the credit for ensuring that the newspapers do not remain a financial burden on the PN. That was a much needed step. Yet, it does seem that his team never bothered to take up seriously the issue of the contents of the PN printed media. 

I do not know who the PN political strategists were under Simon Busuttil’s leadership. Apart from the fact that under their guidance there were too many times when the PN seemed to be barking up the wrong tree, I honestly think that they did not have a hold on what the papers reported, and – more importantly – how the newspapers tackled stories that had a significant political import. 

Thinking that whoever criticised the reporting of some story in the PN papers as perforce being on the other side of the political divide, was tantamount to pretending that the newspapers were beyond making mistakes. That is the sort of attitude that normally spells disaster, of course.

The other PN media are also in the doldrums. Surveys consistently show that the listenership of Radio 101 and the viewers of Net TV are too small for them to make a real impact among the general population. This has happened because, like the PN papers, these media have found it comfortable to stick to preaching to the converted.  Looking at the results from a financial point of view, one is tempted to conclude that the effort and its effect are not worth the money spent on them.

This is not to say that they should be closed up. But there is no doubt that they need a serious revamp that needs to be well thought out and planned beforehand.

That will be a very important task that the new PN leader will have to tackle.

On the other side of the political chasm, Labour has traditionally relied on the GWU papers as far as the printed media are concerned. Again these papers have been consistently used to preach to the converted. However, I now sense a different direction.

The ‘promotion’ of the erstwhile editor of ‘l-orizzont’ to some sort of political post in Castille was criticised by many who – at face value – reckoned that the writer of so many rabid editorials will now be advising the PM. This move was nothing of the sort. It was obviously done to make space for a new editor tasked with a change of direction in ‘l-orizzont’. This had already happened in the case of the Sunday paper, ‘it-Torca’. One can easily see that the political direction of that paper has become more serious and no longer aimed to satisfy the party faithful.

Indeed the tone of the editorials of the GWU papers has recently become saner and more acceptable to the general public. Reports of complaints and the need of reforms are now being given more importance in these papers than the stories adulating Joseph Muscat and his ministers.

To me it seems that these papers are slowly, slowly changing tack. They are becoming somewhat critical of particular issues and how they are being treated on Muscat’s watch. Today they are making sense, more than they ever did.

I think this is no coincidence. With the PN in Opposition, its newspapers were usually the natural media outlets where complaints against the government are lodged – even by Labour supporters.

I reckon that Muscat wants to change this by sending the message that the GWU papers do not think that his government is perfect and that they are amenable to publishing a certain level of criticism of the current administration. This would make the PN papers even more irrelevant.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party organ – the weekly ‘Kulhadd’ – has also tempered its shrill voice, although it is still aimed solely at the party faithful.

Labour’s radio and television are also still aimed at the party faithful, but the loyalty of the party faithful is much stronger in the case of Labour than in the case of the PN. I will not enter into the merits of the reasons why this is so, but I recognise that this is a state of fact that the PN cannot alter.

Again, it is the PN that is under attack here. Some may think that the PN can rest on the support – blatant or otherwise – of the two independent English language dailies. But the PN’s national vote is across the board and it cannot afford to lose its share of support among people whose social milieu is practically anathema to these two papers.

Running the asylum

Those who have a problem trying to decide who the next PN leader might be, should be comforted by reading this piece of dialogue taken from the ‘Yes Minister’ series:

Sir Arnold: So, will our next Prime Minister be our eminent Chancellor or our distinguished Foreign Secretary?

Sir Humphrey: That’s what I wanted to ask you, which do you think it should be?

Sir Arnold: Hmmm. Difficult, like asking which lunatic should run the asylum.’