The Broadcasting Authority, the regulator meant to ensure factual reporting and impartiality, has dismissed complaints of falsehoods and misleading reporting by ONE News despite conceding that the Labour Party-owned station had misrepresented facts.
The complaint, raised by columnist Kevin Cassar, concerned misleading reports on ONE News broadcasts on Cassar’s opinion piece published by The Shift entitled ‘Triple Whammy‘.
In the article, Cassar quoted a Malta Today survey from December 2023, which found that the Labour Party held a lead in popularity among voters who were educated up to the primary level.
News later published and broadcasted that Cassar claimed, “Labour party supporters were the least educated in the country.” The statement was based on data from a Malta Today survey.
The ONE News article claimed Cassar had “spread in a frenzy new lies against Labour supporters,” with TV news broadcasts showing clips of Cassar’s children and Cassar at his place of work – unrelated to his opinion piece.
In a decision on 22 January, the Broadcasting Authority ruled that while “the quotes attributed [in the ONE News broadcasts and articles] to Prof Cassar were not wholly included in Cassar’s writing,” this did not merit the acceptance of Cassar’s claim and the opening of an investigation.
Appearing for ONE, Labour Party president Ramona Attard doubled down on ONE’s assertions, claiming the news station’s representations of Cassar’s writing were faithful. Cassar noted that not only was he not granted a right of reply to the “non-factual” article, but his emails to the station were ignored.
“Being ignorant and lacking formal education are not the same thing – I did not use these words,” he said. He noted that ONE’s mischaracterisation of his article resulted in “disparaging and abusive comments” toward him.
The Broadcasting Authority board has made headlines for another decision this week in which it fined church-owned radio station RTK 103 after presenter Andrew Azzopardi said he would never have “racist” far-right politician Norman Lowell on his show.
Lowell has been found guilty by the courts of inciting racial hatred, making him, by definition, racist. Journalists and authors lambasted the BA decision, noting that the BA board secretary, Adriano Spiteri, used to be an active member of Lowell’s Imperium Europa.
The Broadcasting Authority board’s members, despite deciding on cases of impartiality, adherence to regulations, and transparency, are not publicly listed on their website.
An annual report from 2022 lists chairperson Frank V Farrugia, CEO Joanna Spiteri, Peter Fenech, Alessandro Lia, Charlo Bonnici and Francis Ghirxi as members until 1 January 2024.