Pluralism in Malta’s media has been marked as “high risk”, mainly lending to the fact that the largest media platforms are owned by political parties.
In a new Europe-wide study on media pluralism, concern was drawn to the lack of regulation for media ownership for political entities, the concentration of news media, enforcement on competition and rules for editorial influence.
With party-owned media houses holding the largest share of the market and evident gaps in regulation, Malta received an alarming at-risk score of 94% for political independence in media.
And although the Broadcasting Authority has legislation to promote media pluralism, the reality is that the top four media owners for both TV and radio have more than 50% of audience share.
A survey by the BA quoted in the study found that TV is by far the most used medium, with the majority (81%) of the population following television daily or almost daily. The most popular channel is state-owned TVM with 34.79%, followed by ONE (owned by the governing party Labour), with 20.12% and Net TV (owned by the Nationalist Party) with 7.96%.
A thorough assessment of the print and online market was not possible because it is unregulated and no data is collected with regard to the market share, as well as circulation and readership figures.
The state’s broadcaster TVM was labelled “particularly vulnerable” to political influence due to its ability to influence its Board of Directors, appoint its editorial board and fund the station amounts decided at its own discretion.
And whilst media ownership itself is transparent, since the two largest media groups are run by the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party, this fact has an obvious and direct impact on editorial bias.
Transparent data on revenues was noted to be unavailable to the public, and only general information, as required by national company law may be accessed.
This report also comes after revelations that both party-owned media houses Net News and ONE have not filed their audits for over a decade.
You can find the full report here.