Broadcasting Minister Carmelo Abela adopted a cautious stance when asked about an upcoming court case on whether political propaganda shown on party media stations breaches the Constitution.
“I shouldn’t comment about this because it’s in court now, so we should let the courts decide,” Abela told Lovin Malta this morning. “What I can say is that I never mind improving laws when they need to be improved. I’m not going to comment about specific articles [in the Broadcasting Act] that you mentioned, but as a general rule, laws are there to be scrutinised.”
“Whenever they need to change, there should be discussion on this. I’m not specifically referring to articles of the Act but in general. My attitude is one of openness to discussion and debate, after which decisions are taken.”
Lovin Malta’s court case is based on an argument that a proviso 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.
Abela didn’t comment about this proviso, saying he didn’t know the law by heart and wasn’t aware of it.
Both the Labour Party and the Nationalist Party have pledged to fight this court case to defend their ownership of party media stations.