Issues of impartiality and balance in news reporting on public service broadcaster and other TV channels in Malta
This study investigates the role of the Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) in Malta in maintaining political impartiality, balance and objectivity in news programmes and its changing role within the present broadcasting situation. The major players of the Maltese TV broadcasting scenario included in the study are the PSB and two television stations which are owned and wholly funded by the two main political parties. The main objective of this PhD thesis is to investigate mainly the concept of impartiality within the PSB and the two political stations and how broadcasting regulations can affect impartiality, balance and objectivity in news content and current affairs programmes. The main aim of the analysis is to investigate whether impartiality and balance are present in the TV news and current affairs programmes presented by the PSB and the two politically owned stations. The research analyses the differences in regulating non-public broadcasting stations with regard to impartiality and balance in news programming and thus questions the role of the Malta Broadcasting Authority with regard to the main concepts of impartiality and balance. I will also be studying the measures and policies taken to achieve impartiality and how regulations affect the news content on the PSB and the two ‘political’ television stations. The main argument of this thesis revolves around the ownership of television stations and the concepts of impartiality, balance and objectivity when these stations produce news programmes. Even the broadcasting regulator, while being perceived to be independent, has to enforce the laws to safeguard impartiality whilst also being an effective watchdog. Through the use of four research methods, the study examines the different perspectives which make up the news bulletins and current affairs programmes. Quantitative techniques of content and textual analyses are used to investigate the impartiality in news and current affairs programmes. In order to gain the producers’ and regulators’ points of view on impartiality, media producers and representatives of the Broadcasting Authority will participate in face-to-face interviews. The audience’s perception towards the concepts of impartiality, balance and objectivity in news is also studied through focus groups. This study, though it focuses on Malta, will refer to the situation in other European countries, particularly the development and the situation of PSB in the UK and the role of the regulator in other European countries other than Malta. Also the research compares the Maltese regulations with EU broadcasting regulations on news programmes. The study attempts to answer whether impartiality is achieved in TV news broadcasting in Malta but will also be fully aware of the pertaining question whether impartiality has been achieved elsewhere. In summary, the research focuses on: 1) The history of TV broadcasting in Malta and the evolving role of the Maltese PSB within the development of broadcasting 2) The importance to achieving news impartiality within the PSB for a democratic system, as in the case of Malta 3) The measures and regulations which are taken to achieve impartiality in news and current affairs aired on Maltese television This study attempts to shed light on the role of the PSB with regard to the concept of impartiality in the production of news bulletins and current affairs programmes. The study explores the important role of the PSB in a bi-polarised environment, such as Malta, particularly when reporting news and producing current affairs programmes. The study also investigates the role of the regulator in maintaining impartiality in the news content of the public service broadcaster and the other politically owned TV stations.