21 February 2007

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Commission asked to investigate “flawed” exclusion of One TV from EU programme

Karl Stagno-Navarra

European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström has been formally asked to investigate the exclusion of One TV from the adjudication of EU funds for the production and airing of EU information programmes.
A total of EUR288,000 (Lm123,000) were allotted to two production houses that are expected to air programmes on state Public Broadcasting Services and Nationalist Party television station Net in the coming weeks.
In a letter sent last Monday, Maltese Labour MEP Joseph Muscat asked Wallström to investigate the news revealed by sister newspaper MaltaToday and to explain why the MLP broadcaster was excluded from the adjudication of the APCAV EU media programme.
Joseph Muscat insisted that the justifications given by the EU Permanent Representation in Malta – who adjudicated the contracts – were “flawed and based on purely subjective and evidently wrong assumptions.
The Maltese MEP asked Commissioner Wallström to look into the matter with utmost urgency and to provide the necessary remedies, without the need of resorting to other institutional procedures.
MaltaToday revealed a week ago that a total of five submissions were received by the EU following a call for applications issued by Brussels a few months ago for the production and airing of EU information programmes. Excluded from the call were Impetus (Misco/Fenlex), which proposed a programme on One TV and Education 22; PBS, reported to have bid alone; and Image 2000 (Marika Mizzi), who bid to produce a programme and air it on Education 22.
Allied Newspapers were awarded EUR148,000, while another EUR140,000 have been awarded to former Times journalist Jesmond Bonello, who today runs Content House and will be producing a daily programme on Net Television.
News about the contract adjudication has not only irked One TV executives, but also officials at the government’s EU information agency Forum Malta fl-Ewropa, which now runs the risk of not having a programme on PBS after April. Forum Malta fl-Ewropa had high hopes to co-produce the PBS programme proposal contract in order to ensure a continued TV presence, given that their contract for the weekly programme L-Unjoni Ewropea Ghalija expires in April.
According to sources, the PBS offer was “too expensive”, and would have drained the entire budget allotted to Malta.
With regard to the proposal by Impetus for a programme on One TV, the EU is reported to have excluded the offer as the station was proposing to air the programme at 8pm, a time when it was assumed viewers would shift to PBS for the news.
One Productions Managing Director Michael Vella Haber expressed surprise at this reasoning, when in fact, according to the most recent survey conducted by the Broadcasting Authority, “One TV beats PBS news at 8pm on at least four days in the week.”


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