MaltaToday, 16 April 2008 | Challenge for Dolores


OPINION | Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Challenge for Dolores

Reno Borg

Like Agatha Barbara, Dolores Cristina is a woman minister. So far she has done a pretty good job. She is politically clean, competent and has a pleasant personality. I do not know her much and the only occasion that I spoke to her at some length was when herself and I took part in a discussion programme on Smash TV.
The fact that she is a Nationalist minister does not make much difference to me. Irrespective of the political party that one hails from, it is the substance, competence and integrity that really matters. Voters from two different districts have shown great confidence in her and in itself this means something.
Now Dolores has been asked to carry the burden of the education portfolio, culture and national broadcasting. Hers is one of the most important portfolios in any government, everywhere.
During recent years public broadcasting has reached rock bottom: the national station was robbed of its technological assets and no new investment was pumped in to equip the station with modern technology. ‘Restructuring’ saw the loss of the most competent broadcasters. Under the pretext of commercial viability, TVM’s schedule was regaled to a single commercial entity enjoying an emphatic monopoly on state-broadcasting. Only in Malta was public broadcasting ‘donated’ to private interests to the detriment of the basic principles of fairness and impartiality that one expects from a public broadcaster. Especially in the realm of current affairs and programmes dealing with issues of public policy and political and industrial controversy. PBS abdicated its responsibility to a large degree by contracting its broadcasting obligations to third parties having a commercial interest in securing the lion’s share of PBS schedule.
For fairness’ sake I have to confess that PBS in-house production Dissett (a current affairs programme) was superior to the ones outsourced to the private contractor. It was more credible, fair and impartial than any other production we have witnessed for years on TVM. PBS staff should be praised for it.
If Dolores has the political will, in a few months’ time PBS could once again be transformed into a really national station. Current affairs programmes should once again belong in totality to the PBS newsroom. Commercial contractors should limit their productions to educational, cultural and entertainment programmes. The PBS newsroom should be strengthened and given more resources. Government should do all in its powers to make PBS a credible station reflecting a democratic state and not one dominated entirely by the party in government. It would be the Opposition’s responsibility to insist that the current state of affairs be reversed so that the people of Malta would have the national station they deserve.
Dolores Cristina has a real challenge. Only time will tell whether she will rise to the occasion and do what others before her failed to do. I have great confidence that things would change for the better at Broadcasting House to the benefit of all. Great philosophers believed that politics is there for the common good; let they not be disappointed!

Tonio Borg has pledged the government’s intention to discuss PfP particular operations with the Opposition. It is always positive for government and Opposition to discuss and if possible co-operate on particular areas of government, However, Tonio’s intentions do not in anyway diminish the grave mistake committed by government of forging Malta to PfP in such a hasty manner without any dialogue with anyone including the Cabinet. However, Tonio’s statement that Malta would not join NATO was in itself positive.
In recent years NATO has changed its feathers but it still remains a military organisation. In recent months it has had its difficulties with Russia and for some moments we were made to fear that another Cold War was on the brink, with Russia stating that it would point its missiles towards ex-Warsaw Pact countries to counteract the US and NATO’s advancements towards these countries.
Malta’s role as a neutral country has not been exploited in recent years. Our foreign policy was solely dominated by the EU agenda. Even within the EU itself we seem to have been dormant. Malta’s role as an honest and capable broker for peace initiatives should be more highlighted and pronounced. Malta has a brilliant past in brokering between nations to try to bring them to a peaceful resolution of their differences. Malta’s entry to the EU domain should not serve as a graveyard to our foreign policy. Although we are small and have to take any initiative in its proper perspective, we still have an important role to play as a neutral country.
Even our participation in PfP should be selective and aimed solely at humanitarian initiatives. Malta should refrain from taking part in any combating activity not only not to risk our soldiers’ lives but also to stress Malta’s role as a country of peace.

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