Thursday 20 June 2019

When a slogan comes back to haunt you

It was inevitable, of course, that the catchy slogan Malta Taghna Lkoll (Malta belongs to everyone) would come back to bite the Muscat administration in the behind, the minute that certain people were placed in prime positions.

The changes have been coming thick and fast this week, what with One TV journalists morphing into communications officers and being assigned to the various ministers and parliamentary secretaries, and yesterday’s announcement that the former CEO of the Labour Party James Piscopo will be getting a plum job at Transport Malta.

“Yeah, sure, Malta Taghna Lkoll”, people are saying sarcastically, sometimes justifiably and sometimes not.

When a member of the cabinet chooses his office staff, it is taken as a given that he/she will choose those who have worked hard to get him elected. These are positions of trust and loyalty and most importantly, these are political appointments on a definite contract basis, and this staff will not form part of the civil service. I really don’t see why some people are acting so surprised that these appointments have sprung out of the party media; after all, both One TV and Net TV are in themselves huge PR and propaganda media machines for their respective parties. (Whether political parties should even own radio/TV stations is another argument all together).

When it comes to dishing out jobs at the various government entities, however, the James Piscopo appointment is another kettle of fish. Why him? What happened to the promise that these positions would be filled after a call for applications, complete transparency and choosing the right person for the job because of their qualifications, and not because of who they know?

Muscat rode to victory on the cry that there will be no more ‘jobs for the boys’ or political patronage, but it was always evident that this was going to be one promise which would be difficult to deliver. If he keeps those loyal to the PN in their positions, Labour supporters will raise an outcry, and if he appoints those with a Labour affiliation, PN voters will hurl “Malta Taghna Lkoll” back in his face.  This is a country which has turned patronage into a fine art; a country where suddenly everyone is sucking up to Labour in order to be ‘cosy’ with the new administration. Frankly, there are so many people claiming that they voted Labour, the landslide should have been double what it was.

All eyes on PBS

Meanwhile, last night’s sudden cancellation of TVhemm has tongues wagging and conspiracy theorists in full flight conjuring up all sorts of scenarios. According to the Times of Malta, the decision was taken by the station’s CEO Anton Attard himself, who said it was just this one edition of the programme which was being cancelled.

Here again, “Malta Taghna Lkoll” was the most frequent wry comment of the night. I prefer to wait until we learn more facts, but I do wish to make the following observations:

  1. No TV programme should be immune from being cancelled if there are solid reasons for it. In other countries, if there are enough valid viewer complaints, yes, the TV station does axe the show.
  2. We do not know what kind of contract TVhemm or its presenter Norman Vella had with PBS. Until we do, everything is pure speculation.
  3. Anton Attard should make an official statement explaining the reasons for the cancellation in order to clear the air once and for all. Until he does, there is simply going to be more finger-pointing, wild guesses and equally wild claims that Labour is trying to clamp down on free speech and wants to take over broadcasting “as it did in the 80s”.
  4. Those who have complained about the bias at TVM during the election campaign (and I am one of them) are not advocating witch hunts. What I would like to see is more fairness and less selectivity in the way topics are chosen and more professionalism and objectivity in the way guests are treated. Because, to ride on the current bandwagon, yes, “Il-PBS Taghna Lkoll”.

Powered by