The saga over the Investments Ministry’s latest media campaign about ‘Smart Island’, the government’s ICT strategy, has taken a new twist as the Broadcasting Authority (BA) board failed to take a decision last Monday on whether to ban the ads or not.
Speaking to MaltaToday this week, BA Chief Executive Kevin Aqulina said: “The Board did not take a decision during Monday’s meeting about whether the Smart City advert constituted political advertising or not”
Aquilina added that discussions regarding the Smart Island adverts would continue during the next meeting of the BA board, scheduled for tomorrow.
Last week, the BA Chief Executive issued charges against the four terrestrial television stations which broadcast the adverts, claiming that the adverts constituted political advertising.
Industry sources told MaltaToday that the television stations risked a fine of Lm400 per day if they continued broadcasting the Smart Island adverts after the BA chief executive issued his charges against them.
Speaking to MaltaToday last Sunday, Aquilina was sure-footed about the outcome of the case: “In my opinion, and following past cases decided by the Authority, the Smart Island advert would probably be considered as a political advert by the Authority.
“Whether this will be so or not, one has to await the Authority’s decision on the matter after it would have heard both myself and the abovementioned stations put their case to the Authority,” he said.
On its part, a spokesperson for the Ministry for Industry, Investments and IT had told MaltaToday that in an unprecedented move, TVM (which falls under the MIIT portfolio) had invited the Ministry to attend the hearing to state its case on the matter.
“I should underline that we are not in agreement with the BA Management’s objections to the adverts and we have accepted TVM’s invitation to attend the BA hearing and state our case.
The Ministry’s spokesperson had told MaltaToday that PBS had also asked for the BA’s scheduled hearing to be brought forward and to be heard with urgency.
“We will make our views known to the BA at the hearing on this subject. I repeat, however, that it is our view and the view of our legal advisers that there is no breach of any legal provisions of impartiality in the adverts.
“We have made extra efforts to ensure that the adverts are beyond partisan politics and essentially portray the relevance of the information society within the context of the national strategy,” the spokesperson told MaltaToday.
Three months ago, another campaign by MIIT about the Government’s plans for the Grand Harbour until 2020 was also stopped by the BA after it was deemed to be political advertising.