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Broadcasting Authority says ONE broke the rules, but lets it off the hook

Labour-owned TV station ONE has been found guilty of breaching broadcasting impartiality rules, but allowed off the hook without any remedial action.

The Broadcasting Authority was asked to rule on ONE’s decision to ignore a press conference held by Green party ADPD on April 1 concerning ties between politicians and top business leaders.

ONE failed to send a representative to defend itself during the May 4 hearing at the broadcasting regulator, unlike ADPD which was represented by its chairperson Carmel Cacopardo, deputy chairperson Sandra Gauci and secretary general Ralph Cassar.

Cacopardo argued that ONE was systematically ignoring ADPD statements and press conferences, using ‘news value’ as an excuse. In so doing, ONE was censoring the party, Cacopardo said.

The Broadcasting Authority concluded that ADPD was right to complain, as its April 1 news conference carried news value and should have been covered.

But despite finding ONE in breach of its broadcasting obligations, the regulator failed to impose any sanction on the station, saying “there are no grounds for remedy”.

Traditionally, stations found to have breached broadcasting rules are instructed to either read out a statement highlighting the ruling, or told to remedy the situation by reporting the missing news item.

The Broadcasting Authority is made up entirely of representatives of Malta’s two major parties, the Labour and Nationalist parties.

ADPD has now written to the Broadcasting Authority’s chairman Frank Farrugia to complain about its decision to allow ONE to get away with its breach.

“By failing to identify a remedy, the Authority is telling us that although we’re right, it doesn’t matter,” Cacopardo wrote, noting that unlike the Labour and Nationalist parties, ADPD does not have its own media arm to disseminate its information.

“We believe that the failure to order a remedy in this case will continue encouraging reporting like that of ONE, which seeks to ignore uncomfortable news.”

Cacopardo urged the authority to reconsider its decision.

It is the second time in two months that the green party has been vindicated for complaining about ONE’s reporting: in late March, the regulator ordered ONE to read out an ADPD statement about the hospitals privatisation scandal which it had originally ignored.

ADPD considered that complaint a ‘test case’ following a watershed court ruling which spelt out that all broadcasters, including politically-owned ones, must abide by a constitutional requirement to report the news impartially.

Party-owned stations have traditionally argued that their respective biases effectively cancel each other out. Times of Malta

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