Party-owned TV stations are used as a vehicle for big business to donate substantial sums in return for support in their projects, National Book Council Chairman and Labour Party delegate Mark Camilleri has warned.
“These people give money to the Party intending to get something back from the government with the Party fully aware of the intentions behind their gifts. Permits are mostly sought, but so is government-land and contracts,” he wrote in a blog post entitled ‘ONE and the Rent-Seeking Apparatus’.
Rent-seeking is an economic concept that occurs when an entity seeks to gain added wealth without any reciprocal contribution of productivity. Typically, it revolves around government-funded or government back-projects. Camilleri explains that it is a decades-old cornerstone to Malta’s economic and political system that “hurts honest businesses and entrepreneurs that compete fairly”.
For Camilleri, One Productions is an extension of the Office of the Prime Minister and not the Labour Party itself.
“Joseph Muscat created a system whereby the political propaganda is dictated by OPM which is then handed over to the parliamentary group, the Party and its media. Everyone toes the line on the reply given which supposedly would be universal. Now, who dictates this line?”
Taking a leaf of the PN’s playbook, the Labour Party has brought on business and industry leaders like Joseph Portelli, the Zammit Tabona family, and Sandro Chetcuti to the funnel “donations to the Party which exceed the legal capping”, Camilleri said.
“These people give money to the Party intending to get something back from the government with the Party fully aware of the intentions behind their gifts. Permits are mostly sought, but so is government-land and contracts. It is also why James Caterers and Silvio Debono got a 274-million Euro surprise contract from the government to expand its old people’s home,” he said.
Camilleri warned that the money does not even go to the party, but rather to One Productions alone, much like Silvio Debono had done at the PN’s Stamperija. The money, he says, is used to propagate OPM’s propaganda, which “is entangled in this spiral of rent-seeking”.
“Why? Because party TV stations are not economically feasible. Who gets the top seat at Malta’s economic policy kitchen cabinet? It’s the guys who slosh their money away to the Parties and that is why we hear politicians speaking mostly of construction and tourism projects. It’s a very simple game if one gets it,” he continued.
Camilleri evidenced his claim by highlighting the importance given to the construction industry on ONE, even though it is one of the smallest industries when compared to other key sectors. He noted that Robert Musumeci, who authored Malta’s development regulations, is even one of the most popular figures on the party station.
“So, it’s one big racket, you say? And one big scam? Yes. The donors donate their money to the party and they have their economic policies shoved down the people’s throat with a televised broadcast. That’s how the game goes. The cheerleading presenter to all of this, is, of course, another fraud,” Camilleri said.
Camilleri’s recommendation is clear: follow the money trail and corroborate it with official government land deals, permits and tenders.
Unfortunately, the audited accounts of One have not been published for a decade, while Net hasn’t done so in more than 17 years, despite both promising to do so. Both political party media houses have never received a fine for the glaring issue while they continue to enjoy impunity in publishing their detailed financial figures.
Media.Link had reported a loss of €341,840 and total debt of €8.4 million when it last filed accounts in 2003. Meanwhile, One Productions reported a loss of €507,479 when it last published its accounts in 2010. Total debt stood at €2,704,029.
“Words have little meaning when they come without any action. Failing to realise the real state of affairs of the country is the biggest relapse the Labour Party is making into old habits. We are being fed the lie that if we pass the Moneyval test and make some Venice Commission reforms, everything will be all right and business will be fine. The reality is that the historical problems of our society will remain. Unless rent-seeking is addressed structurally we will preserve our economic, social and civil problems,” he said.
Lovin Malta has launched a court case to determine whether propaganda on political party TV stations should be declared unconstitutional.
It argues that a law approved by Parliament in 1991 to permit party-owned stations One and Net to broadcast propaganda went completely contrary to the demands of the Constitution, which states that broadcasting must be impartial. Meanwhile, financial difficulties leave political parties vulnerable to corruption since they are dependent on big business donations.
A number of high-profile Maltese politicians have criticised the existence of party media in the past, including former Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami, who said they’ll eventually be made redundant; former President George Abela; and former Finance Minister Lino Spiteri. Former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici even predicted that the law would be challenged in court.
You can read all about the case on www.kaxxaturi.com.
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