There is nothing which I find worse than different yardsticks being used for similar circumstances. In 1998, when Dom Mintoff was determined to bring down Alfred Sant’s government, Net News gave him continous exposure, as can be seen from the video clip below. Looking back at it now, Mintoff comes across as incoherent as he rambles on and on, yet the journalists (some of whom are still around) from all the media houses gave him their full attention and the PN obviously took full advantage of this gift which had fallen into their lap. Be honest, is there much difference between Mintoff’s demand for media attention and what Franco is demanding today?
In a more recent example, we have this infamous clip from 2008. Substitute Simon Busuttil for Alfred Sant and Franco Debnoo for Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, and you have last Friday’s scenario:
Let’s not forget that the “journalist” here was an MP for the Nationalist party, and this footage (some claim) won the PN the last election. Of course, in what can only be described as sweet irony, it was JPO himself who eventually revealed the whole mise en scene of this episode, giving us an insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes.
Of course, Net News is a political station so its agenda is clear-cut, just like you know exactly what you are going to get when you tune into One TV. But let us not forget that Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando had crashed a political debate organised by the Broadcasting Authority on the national station, and he was aided to do so by government officials who granted him a press card – that is not something to be taken lightly.
Let us turn therefore to PBS and Xarabank. Here, in a report which was written by (surprise, surprise) Natalino Fenech in The Times we are informed about the upcoming Xarabank programme which would have Dom Mintoff as its sole guest from Bormla. The year was 2002, a full four years after the Sant government had collapsed, and yet here was the national station and Xarabank giving him considerable airtime. I’m hardly surprised that the only video clip which I found after I searched and searched was the one were Mintoff looks like an outdated fool because he didn’t realise that John Bondin was a comic character.
Looking back over these clips it brings into sharp relief just how much we are still at the mercy of media manipulation, especially around election time.
Yesterday, the Broadcasting Authority issued a statement saying that PBS acted correctly for cancelling the programme, but also gave the national station a sharp rebuke because it allowed Peppi Azzopardi to be on air for over two hours as the sole guest with Ruth Amaira asking him some very leading questions as he gave his version of events – when all that was required was a simple explanation. Even though the newscaster during yesterday’s news read out the statement in full, it was followed by yet another interview with Peppi giving his version again, and further comments in the news bulletin in which PBS justified its own behaviour again, saying that it had given Peppi all that airtime so that viewers at home “would know what happened”.
I suppose it did not occur them to transmit a different programme with a scrolling message explaining why Xarabank was not on the air.
What is the use of the BA if the PBS newsroom insists on having the last word even when it has clearly fallen short of its duty to viewers?
As I wrote in my last blog post, I do not agree with the Labour Party’s stunt at all, as the last thing we need in this campaign are more theatrics like we went through during the famous Mistra-JPO-Alfred Sant episode.
Meanwhile, those who are throwing their hands up in the air in horror at the Franco Debono/Labour party episode, while they go around spouting “not fit for purpose”, well, they would do well to remember that the Nationalist Party’s track record in this regard is not exactly something to be proud of.
We want intelligent debate not political scheming and television presenters who prep and coach politicians on the side.