[12/10] - Intervent tal-Professur Edward Scicluna waqt is-Sessjoni Plenarja tal-Parlament Ewropew (1

Stqarrija Għall-Media 12/10

Reazzjoni tal-Awtorità tax-Xandir għall-Intervent li għamel 
il-Membru tal-Parlament Ewropew il-Professur Edward Scicluna 
waqt is-Sessjoni Plenarja tal-Parlament Ewropew

Aktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa, il-Membru tal-Parlament Ewropew, il-Professur Edward Scicluna, għamel intervent waqt is-Sessjoni Plenarja tal-Parlament Ewropew fejn ikkritika d-deċiżjoni li kienet ħadet l-Awtorità tax-Xandir kontra Smash TV dwar il-programm ‘l-MEP u Int’, f’liema programm regolarment ikun mistieden biss l-istess Professur Edward Scicluna.

L-Awtorità kienet ikkonkludiet li, f’mill-anqas tliet edizzjonijiet tal-programm li xxandru bejn Jannar u April ta’ din is-sena, il-programm kien kiser id-dispożizzjonijiet tal-Att dwar ix-Xandir dwar il-ħtieġa ta’ xandir imparzjali meta jiġu ttrattati materji ta’ kontroversja politika jew ta’ policy pubblika kurrenti. Għalhekk, l-Awtorità kienet immultat lill-istazzjon penali ta’ €1,164.

Peress li l-Awtorità tħoss li hemm diversi punti fl-intervent tal-Professur Scicluna li għandhom jiġu ċċarati, l-Awtorità, permezz tar-rappreżentanza permanenti ta’ Malta għall-Unjoni Ewropea, ilbieraħ resqet dokument ta’ kjarifika quddiem il-President tal-Parlament Ewropew, b’kopja lis-Segretarju Ġenerali tal-istess Parlament u liċ-Chairpersons tal-gruppi politiċi ta’ dan il-Parlament.

Kopja ta’ dan id-dokument qed tiġi annessa ma’ din l-istqarrija.

Mario Axiak

 18 ta’ Ġunju 2010

Kap Riċerka u Komunikazzjoni


Awtorità tax-Xandir


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Reaction of the Malta Broadcasting Authority to   Comments made 
by Professor Edward Scicluna, Member of the European Parliament, 
during the Plenary Session of the European Parliament, 
on Regulatory Action taken against Smash Television

In the course of a speech,   delivered on the 15th June 2010 during a Plenary Session of the European   Parliament, Professor Edward Scicluna, Member of the European Parliament,   commented on the regulatory action that had been taken by the Malta   Broadcasting Authority against Smash Television in relation to the broadcast   of a programme entitled ‘L-MEP u Int’ (The MEP and You), in which Professor   Scicluna features as the only invited guest. The office of Professor Scicluna   subsequently issued a Media Release on the subject, a copy of which is   attached to this document. Professor Scicluna is reported to have stated,   inter alia, that the broadcasting station in question has been fined ‘for   screening (his) reports from the European Parliament’. He also ‘urged the   European Parliament to defend his right to freedom of speech’.

For the sake of accuracy and   correctness, the Broadcasting Authority, with respect, wishes to bring to the   attention of the European Parliament the following background information and   clarifications:


  • The Broadcasting Authority is the entity in Malta responsible for        the regulation of broadcasting content. The Authority is established by        the Constitution of Malta which requires the Authority ‘to ensure that,        so far as possible, in such sound and television broadcasting services        as may be provided in Malta, due impartiality is preserved in respect of        matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current        public policy’
  • The functions and responsibilities of the Authority are further        defined by the Broadcasting Act of 1991, which again requires the        Authority to ensure ‘that due impartiality is preserved‘ in respect of        those matters referred to in the Constitution of Malta but also provides        the Authority with the discretion, except in the case of public        broadcasting services, ‘to consider the general output of programmes        provided by the various licensees and contractors, together as a whole’
  • The broadcasting station in question (Smash TV) is licensed by        the Broadcasting Authority and, to a significant degree, its        broadcasting content is dictated by commercial considerations, namely by        the sale of airtime to producers or individuals who are willing and in a        position to pay for this airtime. In the circumstances and since the        Authority cannot accept a situation where the Constitutional        requirements on impartiality could be prejudiced because of financial        considerations, the Authority has repeatedly advised this particular        broadcasting station of its obligations to respect the impartiality        provisions of the Constitution, if not during a particular edition of a        programme, at least generally during a programme schedule. It is not        altogether clear to the Authority whether the broadcaster duly        communicates this obligation to those independent producers or        individuals who purchase airtime on this station
  • In the case of the particular programme to which Professor        Scicluna referred during his speech, the Authority understands that this        is broadcast during airtime procured from the broadcaster by the        producer or by Professor Scicluna himself. All the editions of the        programme practically follow the same pattern, namely an interview with        Professor Scicluna, who is the sole guest in the programme. It is        absolutely not true that the Authority has in any way objected to        Professor Scicluna ‘informing his constituents of his parliamentary work        through the use of the media’ or indeed that it has restricted his right        to comment on matters of local political controversy. However, in the        course of at least three editions of his programme broadcast between        January and April of the current year, Professor Scicluna commented on        matters which were of high local political controversy (i.e. the        extension of a Freeport Terminal, the revised water and electricity        tariffs and the management of public finances) without in any way        featuring or reflecting different views and perspectives on these matters,        not necessarily those of government but also those of the other parties,        public and private, involved in these issues. The Authority concluded        that this constituted a breach of the relevant provisions of the        Broadcasting Act and of the Constitution of Malta 
  • the administrative sanction (penalty) imposed by the Authority on        Smash TV in relation to the programme in question is based on a ‘special        administrative procedure’ provided for in the Broadcasting Act
  • in the light of the above, the Broadcasting Authority cannot        understand the logic of Professor Scicluna’s request to the European        Parliament ‘to defend his right to freedom of speech’, also because        Maltese legislation already provides the broadcaster with the        opportunity to challenge the decision of the Authority. The Broadcasting        Act, in fact, makes it clear that compliance by a broadcaster with a        decision by the Authority in terms of the indicated ‘special        administrative procedure’ shall not be interpreted as a renunciation by        the broadcaster to the right to seek judicial review. In this particular        case, the broadcaster has so far not sought any such review.  

17th June 2010

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News Release from the office of Prof Edward Scicluna MEP
15th June 2010

Scicluna appeals for Parliament's protection over MBA censorship row

Labour MEP Prof Edward Scicluna urged the European Parliament to defend his right to freedom of speech, describing it as "a treasured democratic principle". 

Prof Scicluna's speech follows the decision by the Malta Broadcasting Authority (MBA) to fine Smash TV because of the TV programme L-MEP U INT, which features Prof Scicluna doing a one-to-one interview regarding his work as an MEP. 
Speaking in plenary last night, Prof Scicluna said: 

"As an MEP it is my duty to inform my constituents of my parliamentary work through the use of the media, including television programmes in Malta" 

"I seek the Parliament's protection of my democratic rights as a European citizen as well as an elected MEP". 

Pointing out that the MBA, as the regulator, is legally required to ensure political balance across private TV stations as a whole, but does not request that every individual programme be balanced to prevent someone from expressing their opinion on public policy issues, Prof Scicluna stated that: 

"In spite of this, Mr President, I have been accused on three occasions of breaking the law, and the TV station has been fined for screening my reports from the EUropean Parliament. The ridiculous charge of creating an imbalance in my own programme is itself just that". 

"However, lurking behind this decision is the mistaken idea that balance is sought not through pluralism, and the encouragement of people of different political shades to come forward and give their diverse opinions, but to stifle those who dare to do so". 

Concluding, Prof Scicluna warned that the MBA's rulings had caused a backlash in Malta, commenting that: 

"Most Maltese people, especially young people, had high aspirations from EU membership with respect to democratic values, but are now disappointed to see that censorship is rearing its ugly head." 

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