News | Sunday, 03 January 2010

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Go, Melita refuse to carry religious station

The religious channel UTV is facing renewed obstacles in returning to air, as its owner Fr Gwann Farrugia claims that neither GO nor Melita intend carrying his channel after it closed down for over a year in order to upgrade equipment.
Since its start back in the summer of 2007, UTV saw its director Edgar Bonnici Cachia resigning only a week after the station was launched. Bonnici Cachia claimed he could no longer take the “hard-headedness and the mediocrity” of the channel’s owner.
A year later, the Broadcasting Authority declined to renew Farrugia’s TV licence on grounds of obsolete equipment that was affecting the quality of the station’s programme line-up.
Over the past year, Farrugia managed to gather enough funds to upgrade his equipment and bring his station back up to scratch, but the BA is still unwilling to renew his licence until he finds a carrier.
Since UTV had abruptly petered out their broadcast on the GO platform in 2008, the digital TV carrier quickly filled the channel space with alternative broadcasts which took up the bandwidth originally allocated to Farrugia’s channel. As a result, GO are no longer in a position to provide UTV with channel space.
But in spite of the collection of 5,000 signatures endorsing a petition to have his station carried by local platforms, neither GO nor Melita seem to be interested or in a position to concede space for a new and improved UTV.
Reportedly, Melita also have issues with the quality of UTV’s product and Fr Farrugia’s “past behaviour”. When asked, Farrugia said he had no idea of having a history of bad behaviour with Melita. Going as far as describing the situation as a “duopoly”, Farrugia told MaltaToday that he is “irked at the way a TV station depends on GO or Melita to air.”
Unless the clergyman manages to convince any of the two networks to take on his channel, his only alternative will be to transmit on internet, but he does not seem too excited about the prospect.
Fr Farrugia managed to set up his station after parting with an inheritance to make a capital investment of more than €1 million into UTV, which boasts the largest studio in Malta and includes among its assets an outside broadcasting unit meant to transmit live, daily mass and the rosary.
Fr Farrugia is described by close friends as “enthusiastic and well-meaning” but misguided when it comes to television.
“He would like to leave the station as a monument,” a friend had said, highlighting the priest’s naivété on media. “He really believes in spreading the message of Christ through television, but has no idea what the medium entails.”
“Some told me I was crazy,” Fr Farrugia had admitted at the launch of his station. “But I believe in this, I believe in broadcasting God’s word, and I’m sure we can make it.”


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