The Broadcasting Authority’s (“BA”) recent decision to fine the Church-owned radio station RTK is a threat to free speech, inverting the purpose of the authority’s existence.
The BA has ordered RTK to pay a €6,410 fine after radio show host Andrew Azzopardi said he would never allow racist and xenophobe Norman Lowell on his show and would not obey any directive to host him. Lowell’s far-right organisation, Imperium Europa, filed a complaint with the Broadcasting claiming Azzopardi’s comments constitute political censorship and a threat to the Broadcasting Authority.
Whom to invite as a guest on one’s programme is an editorial decision that should be taken freely by the programme host and broadcaster. The implications of the BA’s decision to fine RTK over Azzopardi’s remarks are that:
a) no privately-owned broadcaster may refuse to give Norman Lowell or his far-right organisation airtime for fear of being fined by the BA, yet simultaneously faces the possibility of being fined by the BA for providing a platform to a guest whose known views have previously resulted in a successful BA complaint;
b) anyone or any entity excluded from a broadcast programme may successfully file a BA complaint on the basis that another individual or entity was a guest on an earlier edition of the same programme;
c) broadcasters or programme hosts may take pre-emptive editorial decisions to avoid being fined, resulting in a chilling effect on media freedom.
Our full statement is in PDF format.