Political party stations One and Net have vowed to fight a court battle against those they accuse of wanting to shut them down.
The two outlets were the result of media pluralism and were carrying out a duty towards their viewers, they argued. The two stations were contacted for reactions after Lovin Malta gave notice that it intends to start constitutional proceedings against the state attorney, arguing that a section of the Broadcasting Act on political party stations breaches the spirit of the constitution and must be declared null and void.
The case is expected to begin later this month.
When contacted, One Television executive chairman Jason Micallef said he did not want to comment, saying he had already expressed his opinion through a Facebook post.
“The attack on One to shut down by those who cannot call themselves independent media will increase in the coming weeks,” Micallef wrote.
“I am ready to fight this attack in court, even if I am alone... let alone when I know that there are many thousands of Maltese and Gozitan families who will be behind us to defend what is ours by right according to the constitution.
“One was born to remain, and no Lovin Malta and their fellow puppets who call themselves paladins of freedom of expression will stop us.”
The TV station changed its Facebook cover photo to an image with the slogan 'Here To Stay'.
Nationalist Party general secretary Francis Zammit Dimech was equally insistent, saying the party was not willing to relinquish anything until there was a proper level playing field in public broadcasting.
“We cannot renounce the right to our own party station when we know we are suffering a double disadvantage because the party in government is using all its resources to use the national broadcaster to its advantage,” he said.
It has also taken over the social media advertising and is discriminating on advertising on newspapers, the former minister said.
“Once there’s a level playing field, we can discuss.”
He explained that the PN’s position on the matter has been known for decades as political stations were always meant to be a temporary solution.
“This subject ought to be discussed as part of a wider context. We have reached a point where we need to ensure that the public broadcaster is truly autonomous and impartial,” Zammit Dimech said.
“PBS is run by the government which appoints its board and editorial board and is used as the government’s mouthpiece. A reform is needed.”
He added that the PN was always in favour of pluralism and introduced a law in the beginning of the 1990s enabling political parties to own their TV stations.
Labour jumped on the bandwagon immediately and PN followed between 1996 and 1998.
“We look at this issue in the broader context. We are providing a service to democracy. Freedom of expression is not only the right to impart information but to receive it,” he said.
“If they did not want to exercise this right, they can simply change channel. This is why there’s choice.”
Asked about whether loss-making stations made them totally dependent on big business donations to stay afloat, Zammit Dimech said that like any other media company, Net TV relied on the revenue it made through advertising.
“We have restructured our station and gone through severe cost-cutting. Irrelevant of whether owned by a party or not, the station is run like any other private company,” he said.
According to Lovin Malta founder and chief executive Christian Peregin, the case is a fight against political propaganda and the corruption that exists in politically-owned media.
Peregin has mounted a campaign against politically-owned media companies, arguing 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.
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