Political party stations ONE and NET may face an uncertain future as a court will soon be asked to scrap a law allowing them to bypass impartiality rules. 

Lovin Malta has given notice that it intends to start constitutional proceedings against the party-owned stations, arguing that a section of the Broadcasting Act concerning political party stations breaches the spirit of the constitution and must be declared null and void.

Times of Malta is informed that the office of the state advocate this week received a formal notice informing them that the independent media outlet intends to file a case before the first hall of the civil court over the matter. The case is expected to begin later this month.

In the notice, lawyers Matthew Cutajar and Eve Borg Costanzi argue that the Broadcasting Act allows the two politically-owned stations to be biased in presenting facts as long as they balance each other out. This, they say, goes against the constitution, the supreme law of the land, which says broadcast media should be impartial in presenting facts.

Bankrupt media companies totally dependent on big business donations to stay afloat

The lawyers said the application to strike out this section of the law, a proviso of Article 13, was the first step in what could be a long legal battle to eventually see party-owned stations shut down for good. 

Lovin Malta founder and chief executive Christian Peregin said when contacted that the case was a fight against political propaganda and the corruption that exists in politically-owned media.  

“Thirty years ago, our parliament enacted a law that permitted propaganda to dominate Malta’s broadcasting sector, which is the exact opposite of what the Constitution demands. Since then, our political parties have morphed into bankrupt media companies that are totally dependent on big business donations to stay afloat, creating a culture of corruption across the board,” he said.   

Peregin has been mounting a campaign against politically-owned media companies, arguing that they contribute to the spread of disinformation and polarise the country across party lines. 

Last year, Lovin Malta collected some €7,662 in a crowdfunding initiative to finance its fight against the media giants.

Also last year, a report by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom flagged politically-owned media stations as a point of concern. 

“It is problematic that party media are not held to standards of fair and unbiased reporting, thus exacerbating the situation of one-sided partisanship, with damaging effects on the wider Maltese media landscape,” said the report, prepared by the European University Institute.

The Nationalist Party’s Radio 101 went on air in 1991 before the party went on to open NET TV. The Labour Party’s Super One Radio was also launched in 1991 before ONE TV was inaugurated in 1994. The PL’s media channels remain among the most popular in Malta. 

A number of EU member states have laws specifically prohibiting political parties from owning media stations.

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