BA fines Andrew Azzopardi for calling Nazi apologist Norman Lowell a racist

Azzopardi was interviewing BA chief executive office Joanna Spiteri on a question of fairness when dealing with the far-right, and Spiteri ended up testifying against Azzopardi before the BA board

Academic and presenter Andrew Azzopardi
Academic and presenter Andrew Azzopardi

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.

While Lowell was actually already found guilty of fomenting racial hatred by a court, as well as having published texts promoting racial supremacy, the BA upheld a complaint by the Imperium Europa founder, saying Azzopardi’s statement constituted “unjust or unfair treatment in any sound or television programme” under Article 35 of the Broadcasting Act.

Azzopardi made his comments while interviewing none other than the CEO of the BA, Joanna Spiteri, in a question on the requirements of “fairness” imposed on broadcasters during an election campaign. He questioned whether any candidates with problematic views should be entitled to media appearances, explicitly using Lowell as an example.

Norman Lowell interview turns Hitler-fest as F Living gives far-rightist free rein

“Norman Lowell has a history of racism: we can beat around the bush as much as we like but he is xenophobic and racist: I cannot see how you can interpret things any differently,” Azzopardi had said.

“Should he, and others who speak in such a manner, be censored from our stations, or do they have the right to space on our stations just because they are candidates,” he asked, before making clear that Lowell would never be invited to his programme.

Spiteri suggested that Azzopardi was “shooting the messenger” as she argued that one cannot exclude individuals based on “particular politics,” presumably including Lowell’s brand of far-right rhetoric.

‘Nazism? It was alright at the time…’ says holocaust-denier Lowell

After Imperium Europa filed its complaint against Azzopardi, Spiteri herself testified during the hearing and agreed that the comment had breached the BA Act, going as far as describing his statements as “threatening towards the authority.”

The five-member board of the authority, chaired by Frank Farrugia, decided that Azzopardi’s comments “were out of place and went beyond a simple opinion, but constituted a declaration.”

The total fine imposed was actually €6,410, as a suspended fine for a 2022 case related to Azzopardi’s programme was made operative after the BA upheld Imperium Europa’s complaint.

BA has fined TV stations for inviting Lowell

The same BA has previously fined programmes which hosted him after he engaged in his characteristic rhetoric: in 2010, it fined Public Broadcasting Services €1,164 after Lowell was hosted on BondiPlus, with the board stating that it could not understand or accept that the public broadcaster provided space during prime time “to a person who is known for the fomenting of racial hatred and for their offensive opinions.”

In 2019 – just two months before that year’s European Parliament election – a fine of €1,160 was imposed on FLiving after Lowell was interviewed on one of its current affairs programme.

The station’s chief executive Karl Bonaci had actually defended Lowell’s appearance by highlighting Lowell’s status as a political candidate, stating that voters “had the right to know what Lowell is saying to be better informed about who to vote for,” but this was not accepted by the BA.