ONE Productions executive chairman Jason Micallef has insisted the station isn’t breaking the law and pledged to fight an upcoming court case on whether political propaganda shown on party media stations breaches the Constitution.
On ONE TV’s show Espresso this morning, an impassioned Micallef argued that the court case, filed by Lovin Malta, aims to close down ONE TV and NET TV for good.
The case doesn’t call for this at all, and is actually asking the courts to determine whether a clause in the Broadcasting Act, which has been law since 1991, goes against the Maltese Constitution.
The Constitution requires the Broadcasting Authority to ensure that TV stations preserve due impartiality in matters of political and industrial controversy and that time is fairly apportioned between people belonging to different political parties.
However, the Broadcasting Act says the BA can consider the general output of programmes of all licensees when regulating impartiality. In practice, this means that political parties are allowed to broadcast political propaganda on their TV stations, just so long as they’re both doing it.
“He [Lovin Malta owner Christian Peregin] said that ONE is brainwashing people, that it only broadcasts partisanship in favour of the Labour Party, that it always airs programmes that only make the PL look good, that this is brainwashing people, that there’s no impartiality on ONE TV, that they’re breaking the law and Constitution and that he’ll therefore go to court for ONE to close once and for all,” Micallef said.
He also compared the PL’s ownership of a party station to a businessman’s ownership of a hotel.
“This station was set up by law, a sacred law, and it’s not breaking any law,” he said. “It’s a private company owned by the Labour Party. The PL invested in this station, just as a businessman invests in building a hotel in accordance with the law. Imagine someone decides how this hotel is managed and how it’s run – it’s private, not public, just as this station is.”
Micallef suggested that the case will not only impact ONE’s political content, but also its entertainment, sport and social affairs shows and its charity fundraisers. This is not the case at all; the court application is only arguing that the law which allows the station to broadcast political propaganda is in breach of the constitutional requirement for impartiality in broadcasting.
The ONE chairman then took phone calls from concerned viewers, where he told them that Peregin had decided to close the party-owned stations and thought he had some divine right to do so.