Dejected BA employees demand PM’s intervention over Valletta move

Through their union, the Broadcasting Authority’s employees sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking for his intervention after the board approved a controversial move to new offices in Valletta

The Broadcasting Authority board has approved a controversial move to new offices in Valletta during an unusual 7am meeting on Friday
The Broadcasting Authority board has approved a controversial move to new offices in Valletta during an unusual 7am meeting on Friday

The Broadcasting Authority board has approved a controversial move to new offices in Valletta during an unusual 7am meeting on Friday, as employees mount a stand against the relocation which they insist will not be to their benefit.

Through their union, the BA’s employees sent a letter to the Prime Minister asking for his intervention given that the new premises are inadequate. 

Sources close to the Union Haddiema Maghqudin (UHM) told this newspaper that a letter signed by all authority employees represented by the union was sent to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Wednesday in which it was noted that they were being kept in the dark over the move. Workers are not against moving but they are concerned about the adequacy of the Valletta building.

The employees complained of the attitude and incompetence in the broadcasting sector shown by the authority’s politically-appointed chairperson, Tanya Borg Cardona, “which makes it impossible to work with her,” the sources said.

“The employees are dejected and there’s a sense of resignation given that decisions are being taken without proper consultation,” the union sources added.

The letter highlighted the inadequacy of the new offices in Melita Street, Valletta, and the lack of consultation about the move. It was also sent to justice minister Owen Bonnici, the ministry’s permanent secretary Johan Galea and the Broadcasting Authority’s CEO Joanna Spiteri.

MaltaToday understands that the letter remained unanswered by the time of going to print.

The move to Valletta was approved at a meeting held at dawn on Friday with the final verdict being three votes against one. The board is composed of four representatives, two recommended for appointment by Labour and two by the Nationalist Party, and the chairperson. It is understood that one board member, PN representative Chris Scicluna, was unable to attend for personal reasons but his absence did not influence the final vote given that Borg Cardona and the two Labour representatives voted in favour.

However, a number of questions on the planned move remain, with sources saying that the move was approved by the board in the absence of a health and safety report on the new offices.

Moreover, a number of questions raised at board level in regard to the transparency of the bidding process and consultancy services offered in relation to the migration from Hamrun to Valletta, remain unanswered.

Tanya Borg Cardona
Tanya Borg Cardona

The Broadcasting Authority is expected to move into the new premises in Valletta in summer and as reported last month by MaltaToday, economy minister Chris Cardona will move his ministry in the opposite direction and set up office just over 100 metres away from the Labour Party’s headquarters in Hamrun.

The new Melita Street offices – which have only been shown to a handful of people – were said to be inadequate as they are not big enough for the authority’s 30-strong staff. They have complained that the new offices, which are still under construction, are “too small and dark” and there are concerns over the efficacy of having up to 10 or 12 employees working in one room.

While the move is expected to come in the midst of an electoral campaign, it is being described as short-sighted given that the BA’s complement of staff could increase in number in the coming months as the authority’s remit is set to be expanded.

The Broadcasting Authority currently only supervises radio and television broadcasting services but the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS), which entered into force in 2007, is aimed at creating a wider regulatory body covering both traditional television broadcasting and new services such as digital broadcasting and online services.

This will see the BA and the Malta Communications Authority (MCA) merge to form one new regulatory body regulating both telecommunications and broadcasting, making the BA’s move to Valletta short-sighted.

The BA also did not issue a call for tenders but a call for expressions of interest to provide the property. In reply to MaltaToday’s questions last month, the authority said “a proposal to move to new offices has been put forward for the board’s consideration” adding that a call for expressions of interest was issued “and a number of bids were received for the Authority’s request to rent premises.” 

A BA spokesperson said “the move to a more central location will enhance the standing of the Authority as well as contributing to its efficient functioning.”

Sources said the authority’s board and management were not involved in the decision-making process and the selection of the Melita Street premises came without a clear evaluation and due diligence process.

Chairperson Tanya Borg Cardona, who voted in favour of the relocation, has been reportedly insistent on the move, having complained the Hamrun offices are too old – even though the 18th century building in Valletta will require drastic modernisation.

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