30th March 2007
This message nearly offended me coming in the week when viewers were forced to watch on private pay cable TV the two football matches played by the Malta national team in the European soccer competition.
The whole purpose of having a publicly owned media station is to ensure that events of national importance are carried over easily accessible free to air media irrespective of the commercial economics for doing so. It is for this reason that consumers pay to the public sector an annual fee in the form of a TV license.
If the publicly-owned media company does not fulfil such function of carrying free to air national events of historic, cultural, political and sport related importance irrespective of their commercial value, then what, may I ask, is the purpose of having a publicly owned media station in the first place?
If the TVM becomes just another commercial station what is the public sector’s role in a purely commercial operation? Now that the State has divested itself of all other commercial undertakings, what is the need for holding on to a commercial media company which fails to fulfil its public function – unless of course TVM’s existence is politically justified to ensure that the government in office and its ministers have their daily ritual on the news bulletins?
Just imagine the furore that would arise in
It is curious how liberalisation in the telecommunications and media sector is actually working against the consumers’ interest. It is an odd case where false competition is being introduced and is putting the consumer in a worse position than when the sector was controlled by monopolies.
There was a time when the whole package of foreign soccer was available, against payment, through the sports package of Melita Cable. The opening of the pay TV to competition meant that the soccer package was split between two operators, forcing the consumer to subscribe to two different services at an additional cost, to enjoy the same menu.
If this principle were to be applied to mobile telephony it would be equivalent to giving Vodafone coverage over half the island and Go Mobile over the other half forcing consumers to subscribe to both Vodafone and Go Mobile to enjoy total area coverage.
In these circumstances it is fair to ask who is protecting the interest of the consumer in the media sector. What is the role of the telecommunications regulator in this respect and how does it overlap with that of the Broadcasting Authority? Or is it a case of this overlap causing confusion, with the consumers’ interest being neglected by both?
TVM does not need to be refreshed with new logos and brand images. It needs to be either re-invented or buried. Either it performs the true functions of a public sector media station on the BBC model, being strongly autonomous from the government and protected by, or indeed merged into, the Broadcasting Authority, to ensure that its autonomy enjoys constitutional protection, or else it should be buried and the organisation or its assets sold on a commercial basis. Either one or the other, but nothing in between.
Today we start the celebrations of the Holy Week with the processions in our towns and villages with the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. There our heavenly Mother will sit heart-broken beneath the Holy Cross formed by two rectangles. The message for repent and charity comes much more consistently from these two rectangles than the message of refreshment for our benefit from the two rectangles on TVM’s billboards.