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Explained: Lovin Malta’s Interest In The Political Party Stations Campaign 

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Lovin Malta’s historic civic action to reform Malta’s broadcasting sector is not intended for our own commercial benefit.

Our purpose is to improve our society through impactful journalism and we have identified this action as a means to effectively deliver on our mission.

Malta has deeply-rooted issues with rule of law, and this is no surprise given that our two political parties openly breach the Constitution by airing propaganda daily on their own TV stations.

These stations are also bankrupt which means they depend on big business donations and taxpayer money. In other words, corruption has become a way of life for them so that they can sustain their own operations which are infinitely more vast than they would be if they did not own media empires.

And since these commercial operations are owned by the political duopoly in Malta, they have long escaped basic scrutiny. To give one example, they have not published their audited accounts for 10 and 17 years respectively and are both allowed to spend years not paying water and electricity bills, among other conveniences not afforded to normal companies. This is particularly frustrating for local businesses who are currently facing increased scrutiny due to the looming threat of greylisting by Moneyval brought about by our political actors.

Naturally, all the other media in Malta, including Lovin Malta, can benefit from having a level-playing field that is not distorted by political parties.

Our crowdfunded action was originally made within the context of an EU directive which placed online audiovisual content under the direct jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Authority. This Directive (2018/1808) was designed to ensure that TV regulations were not circumvented by audiovisual broadcasters online. It was intended to create a level playing-field between big TV networks in Europe and the smaller online producers who were eating into their advertising pie without the same regulatory pressures.

In Malta, however, our Broadcasting Authority is composed only of representatives of our two political parties, which are themselves operators and owners of the two main TV stations and which also dominate our national broadcaster.

This created a dangerous legal predicament for media producers like Lovin Malta. Suddenly we were being regulated by our larger competitors, who also have the added benefits of writing laws, deciding which ones should be enforced, not filing their public accounts and receiving disproportionate government advertising and taxpayer funding (at least €180,000 per month).

Our argument, when we launched our crowdfunded project, was that rather than regulate online media, our Broadcasting Authority must start by reforming itself, removing itself from political party control and start properly enforcing the Constitution which clearly demands impartiality in broadcasting.

Naturally, our transparent legal action (which makes the exact same legal argument made by Malta’s former President George Abela and the current CEO of the Broadcasting Authority) has sparked strong reactions by the political and broadcasting duopoly in Malta who are using their propaganda machines to undermine our credibility by saying we have an interest in this sector.

Saying we should not speak about this subject because we are media operators is akin to saying a football team should not talk about corruption in football because it might benefit commercially from a level-playing field.

Contrary to the spin, Lovin Malta is not trying to eliminate competition. We are not arguing that the stations should be shut down at all but that political parties should divest themselves of their interests. The stations should continue operating according to the law. This will most likely result in more competition against Lovin Malta.

Lovin Malta’s interest in the media sector is not hidden. It cannot be more explicit. And it should not impinge on any of our arguments. If anything, it is the political parties who do not have the credibility to talk about this sector because not only are they operators but also regulators and legislators who have demonstrated an explicit conflict of interest in helping their own companies break the law. This would be unacceptable in any country and any industry but Malta’s media landscape has somehow allowed it for 30 years.

As a successful media startup, Lovin Malta has of course looked into the possibility of diversifying its product on print, radio and TV. We have conducted detailed business plans in all of these segments, and others. However, we invariably came to the conclusion that we should remain fully online focused. This is because the advantages of measurable digital advertising are unbeatable.

For the record, we have never applied for a TV license but even if we had, it would not change anything about our sound legal arguments. Interestingly, it was our interest in analysing the TV market that originally helped us understand the seriousness of the situation in Malta. That’s when we found out that audited accounts had not been published for more than a decade and the last accounts showed huge losses. And that’s when we realised that it is particularly dangerous for political parties to own such media, not only because of propaganda but because of how dependent it makes political parties on business interests.

Lovin Malta is a startup that was founded in 2016. Christian Peregin is a 70% majority shareholder and David Grech owns 30%. Both shareholders are fully operational in the company and have never made cash injections to grow or maintain the brand beyond the minimum initial share capital. Our ownership structure is fully transparent and available on the Malta Business Registry website, as are our audited accounts. We welcome the added scrutiny that this case has already placed us under. 

We have no links to any political parties or other business groups, we have a strict policy about transparency in our sponsored content and we are proud to have a dynamic team which is free to voice their diverse opinions. Nobody else benefits from our commercial success except all of our employees who are part of a profit-sharing mechanism.

READ NEXT: Former President George Abela Made This Spot-On Legal Argument Against Party TV Stations 10 Years Ago

Christian is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who founded Lovin Malta to create real impact in society. He is passionate about justice, making sure taxpayer money is spent correctly and finding ways to build a better future.

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