Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

Telly like it is

The Sunday Times Logo

Sunday, June 3, 2012 by

Tanja Cilia

Each time the Broadcasting Authority or some other august body publishes viewership and listenership statistics, those connected with the local media (and that includes advertisers) pore over the results.

The general idea behind being on television, of course, is to have one’s programmes viewed or listen to; it is only a minority of local broadcasters and producers who can afford to do it ‘just for fun’ – like those 30-somethings who stay in the parental home getting one degree after an­other, without bothering to get a job.

But money is not what’s behind merchandising and publicity. Some advertisers are wily enough to butter their bread on both sides.

It has been shown that the public gets the idea that the media – and to some extent this includes those of us in the print media too – are publicity whores, and paranoid prima donnas to boot. But it does not excuse the superciliousness and rudeness of some of them.

I sometimes contact television stations or specific producers when I see listings and think a series is going to be interesting enough to highlight, asking for further details. Some people ignore my mail (I would have been more content with a ‘No, thank you’), and some say they have an agreement with another publication.

Others promise to get back to me; so after a week or so, I send a reminder. The data does come, yes – but only after the programme or the people behind it would have been splashed all over the pages of another newspaper or magazine, which loses these people credibility.

• Meanwhile, it is high time some of the finances allocated to the state broadcaster go towards wages for a linguist/proofreader for the News division, and some more for diction classes for the newscasters, at least three of whom would not be out of place reading excerpts from novellas, Twanny Scalpello style.

This might explain, perhaps, why of late, some of the news items sound more like prose (“…the heartrending look of sadness in the eyes of the horse…”) or non-fiction (“…most of whom looked like they came from Somalia…”) – before the nationalities of some uninvited guests had been verified – than news items.

The command of the language, moreover, leaves much to be desired when it comes to idiom and syntax. Jilgħab għaż-żmien (Thursday mor­ning, Radju Malta, 7 a.m. news highlights) might have been a direct quote, but I still say it would have sounded better had it been edited.

People who do not want to see the vernacular corrupted further have taken to circulating e-mails or posting on social sites, screen shots and clips of particularly atrocious transgressions. And, of course, it is far easier to produce a mish-mash of Maltese and English than search for the correct translations for phrases such as ‘life expectancy’ and ‘workforce’.

The least said about certain sportscasters and newscasters when they speak off the cuff rather than following a script, disc-jockeys, and tele-sellers of tat, the better.

Most viewers and listeners make allowances for a lapsus or 10, but as in many other things, the dose makes the poison.

In some stations, wannabes are allowed to contribute their talents – read work for free – to learn the ropes, and maybe get a leg-up in the labour market. This happens mostly on the political stations; but, again, not anyone who wants to is allowed to produce or present programmes; one must have credentials. And yet it has happened, yet again, that a commercial station has reneged on paying (at least) two of its presenters.

• Meanwhile, a look at the aforementioned statistics, this time as produced by the Broadcasting Authority, makes interesting reading, once one wades through the zillions of digits in which the pearls of information are ensconced.

At one point it is indicated that youngsters do not watch television before 8 a.m. – unless this is taken to mean that they do not use a traditional TV set, but rely on their PC monitors to catch up with the latest episode of their favourite series, which they would have downloaded overnight.

This is something to which teachers can attest; asking “Who watched some television this morning?” is usually met with a number of raised hands. Perhaps it is time the BA overhauled the questionnaire, with a view to indicating any type of monitor capable of receiving television transmissions as ‘television’. Rather than asking respondents which genre of programmes they preferred, the BA cut to the chase and asked for the “three favourite programmes”.

There must also be made provision for the fact that some radio and TV stations have captive audiences, as they are the ones managers of outlets and factories select for their staff’s and clients’ predilection.

• This year, people who are usually very vociferous about how the Eurovision caboodle must be carried out, have been conspicuous by their absence. Moreover, Norman Hamilton has resigned from the post of unpaid consultant to PBS CEO Anton Attard.

Is this why some have come up with the most remarkable reasons why ‘Malta did not win the Eurovision Song Contest’? Alas, all those who are sending these e-mails and even going on air with half-baked theories forget to add the all-important word ‘again’.

I wish someone would explain to me, in words of one syllable or less, why it matters so much that Malta (rather than Kurt Calleja) placed rather low in the results, but the fact that last year, Malta (rather than Glen Vella) failed to make it to the semis.

• Meanwhile the logic of how TVM2 came into being but Radju Bronja is still off-air, escapes me. I can – and I do – wear a radio with ear-buds when I am out and about, but it would be courting suicide to try and follow a television programme outside.


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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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