The government is “analysing” a recent court ruling which confirmed that the Broadcasting Authority is obliged to ensure impartiality of all broadcast media, according to Culture Minister Owen Bonnici.
The statement was made by the Constitutional Court in an appeal ruling on a case won by the PN against the Broadcasting Authority.
The BA lawyers argued the PN’s rights had not been breached as the state did not enjoy a monopoly over broadcast media, as was the case when the constitutional clause protecting media impartiality had been drafted.
Judges Mark Chetcuti, Giannino Caruana Demajo and Anthony Ellul said the obligation towards impartiality was “not limited to a situation where a monopoly is present [and] applies in all broadcast services in Malta, both public and private”.
Bonnici said that the government was “analysing the sentence in detail, also in light of work being carried out in relation to the European Media Freedom Act”.
The European Media Freedom Act is a European Commission proposal that seeks to protect editorial independence, ensure transparency in state advertising and requires member states to run pluralism tests to protect against media monopolies.
Bonnici has previously said that he is in favour of this proposal but stopped short of committing to any reform within PBS.
Asked whether the ruling might impact ongoing constitutional action to annul a Broadcasting Act provision allowing political party stations to bypass the principle of impartiality, Bonnici said the ruling related to specific decisions taken by PBS and the BA place before the last election.
“The court’s considerations do not impact parties outside this case, but we nonetheless take note of the ruling in light of discussions taking place at a European level regarding changes to strengthen broadcast freedoms,” he said.
The state of broadcast media in Malta has frequently come under fire, including from former Labour Minister Evarist Bartolo who last April argued that PBS needed a governance shake-up “so that the broadcaster does not remain the government’s mouthpiece”.
A constitutional case opened by Lovin Malta and its founder and former CEO Christian Peregin seeking to annul a proviso to Article 13 of the Broadcasting Act is ongoing.
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