Michael Briguglio's Blog

Monday, March 08, 2021

#Ħsibijiet (76) Party political stations?

A current subject under scrutiny in Malta's media and legal spheres concerns party political stations' right to exist. 

Like everyone else, I have my own preferred media, and I trust some sources more than others. I even have the privilege of airing my views in media houses which host me, to whom I am grateful. But that doesn't give me a monopoly over the truth, over what others should watch, read or hear. 

Also, I am not a constitutional expert and I leave legal matters to experts in the field. If I wanted legal advice I would seek it from a lawyer. 

But from a sociological perspective I consider party political stations to be part of the public sphere just as other media is.
One may dislike party political stations, their methods, and what they stand for, but one thing is clear: You know what their agenda is. You may despise it, but you know what its ultimate goal is. Can we say the same of all other media outlets, portals, blogs and so forth? By agenda I am referring to ideological orientation/s, direct/indirect affiliations and networks, behind the scenes operations, personal goals and funding sources. 

Sometimes, one can get a good idea of all this for example through which stories are emphasized, who is picked on, who is spared scrutiny and what is elbowed out of the respective news agenda. Not to mention other factors such as speed, snackability and reliability of news, in a media simulacrum where suddenly everyone can self-proclaim oneself to be an expert of everything, in a competition for audiences. 

Transparency and accountability are paramount, and this holds for all media outlets, and not just those belonging to political parties. These include newspapers, radio stations, blogs, news portals, Facebook news pages, vlogs and so forth. And in today's world nobody is forcing people to watch political party TV or radio stations. Not to mention that time and again, including presently, there have been various instances of programmes, shows, blogs and vlogs which captured huge audiences despite not being produced or endorsed by any political party.
As I see it, competition between narratives and discourses (including fake news), the media and the journalistic profession should be subject to standards, evidence-based reporting, equitable rights and responsibilities within a pluralistic and liberal democratic framework. I wouldn't want the media sphere to be dominated by a monolithic state or partisan propaganda. But neither would I want it to be dominated by agendas which are not always transparent or accountable to democratic norms. 

Let the audience decide what to watch. In the meantime, invest more in education related to social, political and media matters. Let us invest in a more reflexive society, rather than dictating to people which news outlets they should follow. 

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