Malta’s broadcasting regulator has lashed out at the OSCE for reporting that it only played a passive role during electoral campaigns and did not actively monitor campaign coverage.
“The mission report has totally misrepresented the Broadcasting Authority’s role during the 2017 electoral period and presented a very bleak picture of the regulatory legal framework for the broadcasting media,” BA chief executive Joanna Spiteri wrote in a rebuttal made public on Tuesday.
In its complaint to the OSCE, the BA said that it rigorously monitored all radio and TV broadcasts and that it had charged broadcasting stations with violations on eight separate occasions during the 2017 general election.
The BA said that it had handed stations a warning on five of those occasions and fined them on the other three. In reality, a fine was only levied on one occasion: in the other two cases, the fine was suspended for two years.
It had also received nine complaints and acted upon them within 24 hours, BA chief executive Joanna Spiteri added, with its decisions made public.
The OSCE mission report was compiled by observers who visited the country to report on Malta’s electoral process. In their report, observers wrote about myriad issues, from concerns about “anonymous billboards” which cropped up during electoral season to reports about candidates handing out hampers and other gifts to prospective voters.
In a section of their report dedicated to Malta’s media landscape, OSCE observers had criticised political ownership of media stations, saying they negatively impacted “the public’s ability to access a wide range of views” and noted that “owing to its composition and the appointment procedure, the BA is generally not perceived as an independent regulator”.
The report also stated that the BA “does not enforce impartiality and fairness rules on private outlets”, did not “actively monitor campaign coverage” and imposed no fines during the 2017 campaign – the three comments which raised the BA’s ire.
In a separate letter sent to OSCE secretary-general Thomas Greminger, BA chairman Martin Micallef also complained that the observer mission had never contacted the BA and asked who the "BA interlocutors mentioned [in the report] were."
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