PBS's big solution to the impasse will ricochet back at them, hard

No. 170 - A Question of Balance

Former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff
Former Prime Minister Dom Mintoff

What are we skinning? The PBS's initial decision to not air a four-part docuseries on Dom Mintoff for fear of upsetting the feelings of Nationalist Party voters of past, present and future.

Why are we skinning it? Because having a Mintoffian version of Satanic Panic going on even in this day and age is nothing short of downright hilarious.

But impartiality rules are pretty sacrosanct for a public broadcaster... Putting aside the fact that the PBS has been criticised along similar lines for even its news broadcast... do you honestly think 'Dom Mintoff' equals partisan bias by proxy?

He remains the Labour Party's most historically notable prime minister. Surely it doesn't get any more partisan than that? He was also someone at the centre of cataclyismic changes for Maltese society, for better or for worse.

But we knew that already. Why is this project happening now? It's the tenth anniversary of his death! And we're late by a few months for that anyway...

Will all politicians be getting the same treatment, though? Well, apparently a Gorg Borg Olivier counterpart doc is being put into production to assuage any riots that may be fomenting after the Mintoff series hits the small screens...

This is a little bit like when everyone thought Joaquin Phoenix's Joker movie was gonna lead to violence in cinemas... Ah yes, the little 'Satanic Panics' that keep cropping up every now and then...

That was a promotional stunt, surely? And you think the PBS/Mintoff one is, as well?

Wouldn't put it past them... I would.

Why? Well, for starters... I don't think our boys and gals at PBS have quite the Machiavellian intellectual werewithal to pull it off... and secondly, the whole balance thing has already shown itself to be a bit of an absurdity many times over.

What's the alternative? Oh, I don't know... respect people's intelligence enough to form their own opinion? Allow high-quality programmes to thrive without being subject to facile but bureaucratically friendly criterias of 'balance'?

Pretty tall order. Happy to list that down as my only Christmas gift for the year.

Do say: "The idea that a documentary series on one of Malta's most important political figures would be partisan by proxy is misguided at best, downright insulting at worst. Yes, impartiality is important for a public broadcaster, but a documentary series is ultimately a creative endeavour that should not be beholden to some shallow box-ticking exericse."

Don't say: "PBS's big solution to the impasse will ricochet back at them, hard. Pitting poor Gorg Borg Olivier against Mintoff will only crank up the latter's entertainment value."