The Investments Ministry (MIIT) has not excluded contesting in court the decision taken by the Broadcasting Authority (BA) board to stop the latest media campaign about Smart Island, the government’s ICT strategy as it constituted political advertising.
Asked by MaltaToday whether the ministry intended to take the case to court to contest the BA’s decision, a spokesperson said yesterday evening: “At this point in time, we don’t plan to appeal in court. In due course we may reconsider this.”
“However, we shall be using YouTube to broadcast the ads which the BA didn’t want the people to see. It would be up to the viewers to decide whether these were political or otherwise.”
The BA board fined TVM €1,164, suspended for a year, for carrying political advertising in violation of the Broadcasting Act as this was not the first time the station had been found guilty by the BA of broadcasting political adverts.
The other three stations – NET TV, One TV and Smash TV – were given an official warning as this had been the first time that they had been found guilty of a similar offence by BA.
The BA Board said the text of the adverts was primarily of a “promotional nature, that is, the adverts seek to promote the achievements of the Administration about the development of Information Technology as well as the strategy that has been developed for further development in this sector in the next few years.”
It found that the TV spots were in violation of the provisions about balance and impartiality.
The ministry told the BA that none of the parties had objected to this advertising. However, the BA Board ruled that “even if this was true, the Authority cannot escape from its duties under the country’s pertinent legislation.”
The Ministry told MaltaToday it was “disappointed but not surprised” with the BA Board’s decision about the Smart Island adverts. “Our lawyers find it very difficult to advise us why the BA Board in passing judgement expressly disagrees with its management that the Smart Island adverts were not impartial but still requires the TV stations to stop airing them.
“What the Authority considers is the correct interpretation of the law disregards the importance of communicating the aspirations of the country in this exciting sector. Unfortunately, during the hearing, it was amply evident that the Authority was not interested about the substance of the matter and the importance of the objectives of the campaign.
“Of course we respect the Authority’s jurisdiction in this matter and will comply with its decision,” the spokesperson said.
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 as political advertising.