Friday, 23 March 2001

Partisan games

The Malta Independent

Partisan Games

Partisan games politicians play have reached new dimensions. A Prime Minister`s address to the nation regarding the La Salle issue held on 15th February 2001 was used to bolster the audience ratings of Net TV and to disadvantage` Super One TV. Super One TV had won the two official ratings measured in 2000 by independent surveys commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority. The author is chairman of the company that operates Super One media.

A Prime Minister`s address to the nation is a national event par excellence. Through it the Prime Minister speaks to the whole nation not to Nationalists, Labourites or in-betweens. For such events the Department of Information is duty bound to give equal access to all media. For such national events` it is customary for the national TV to be tasked to transmit the event and to offer a transmission feed to all local TV stations to avoid having duplication of heavy transmission equipment and links.` Arrangements on these lines have already been put in place for the Pope`s visit next May.

After all the national TV station, whilst allowed to compete across the board for advertising revenue, benefits from TV license fees charged to every household. No share of these license fees is offered to private TV stations. So the least expected of the national TV station is to take the lead in such national events and offer a feed to the private stations under the direction of the Department of Information.

Nothing of this sort happened on the occasion of the PM`s address to the nation last February.` Unofficial information was reaching One News that the PM was about to make an official address to the nation and` that outside broadcasting units of Net TV and PBS were already lined up near Castille for the transmission. Officially Super One` was kept completely in the dark and it was through own initiative that a camera person and a journalist were sent to Castille to cover the event.

As it happened the PM`s address was televised direct by Net TV and PBS but Super One had to make do with a filmed version.`

Protests were made with the Department of Information (DOI). After several exchanges of correspondences it was concluded that the DOI was kept completely out of arrangements with the media which were handled directly by the Office of the Prime Minister.` It also resulted` that PBS were officially asked to transmit as the national TV station, whilst NET TV had heavenly inspiration to ask for direct transmission and to pre-record their evening discussion show which is normally transmitted live.

This may seem to be petty games which politicians play on a daily basis. But when one realises that on that very same day the audience survey commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority was in progress, then one realises that the PM`s address to the nation was` a machiavellian plan not only to recover lost political ground as a build-up to the local elections which were due on March 10th, but was also a plan to attack the audience following of Super One TV which were being measured on that very same day.

Super One media is the only voice available for the Opposition to counteract the vast array of media available to the government. Using a PM`s address to the nation to play such undemocratic political games shows the pitiful state of the current administration that has lost all sense of direction.` Will the Broadcasting Authority, another national institution par excellence,` allow itself to be used in such political games`

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