As far as I can figure out TVM has not covered the Paradise Papers leaks. It’s not that they did not analyse the Azerbaijani connections to Malta and Pilatus Bank. It’s not that they avoided joining dots bouncing furiously at each other.
They didn’t even report the fact that Pulitzer-Prize winning ICIJ team have leaked documents from multiple tax-advantageous jurisdictions, including the Maltese register. They didn’t report the interest in various countries about billionaires putting their money in Malta to avoid paying higher taxes in their own home country. That these people were of significant familiarity, such as U2’s Bono.
If they wanted to spin the story, they could have done the old “there’s no proof” mantra. They could have limited themselves to omit working like proper journalists to interpret the reams of information that has been leaked.
But the chilling effect of the government’s grip on public broadcasting is such that in order not to risk saying the wrong thing, TVM pretended that the biggest news world-wide these last 48 hours, with a specific focus on Malta (and other jurisdictions), was not happening at all.
A third generation Maltese-Australian who could not find Malta on a map to save his life gets chased by a dog in the outback and a vaguely familiar surname pops up on Google. That story makes headlines here because of a proximity interest for the diaspora.
But when the world news report about Malta sheltering tax-dodging billionaires in damaging reports that might just force us to restructure the entire basis of our economy: that is not of any interest to the public. It is not in the public’s interest to know what’s going on.
When two days after Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated and the world media from CNN to the local TV station in Hanoi were discussing this with interest, TVM’s chief journalist held a gripping interview with a government apparatchik on building permits.
When the European Parliament stood up in unison in a moving applause to the Caruana Galizia family to thank them with harrowing awe for the sacrifice no one should have asked them to make in a democracy, TVM was entirely uninterested.
Public Broadcasting is a constitutional institution intended by the founders of our republic to be beyond the control of the government. It is protected at law with autonomy from the government as much as the civil service, the judiciary and other institutions that are designed to hold the government in check. Like the other institutions it has been possessed by government control that manufactures truth.
If public broadcasting was being challenged by free TV media that would only be half a tragedy. But sickening spin is the inevitable product of TV stations monopolised by political parties that present to viewers what their viewers seem so keen to accept.
This too is a failure of our democracy. It is so dark.