Malta: the media as a political mouthpiece

Europe's smallest member state, located south of Sicily with a population of 431,000, is one of the world's most densely populated countries. Relative to its population Malta has an extraordinarily diverse media landscape. There are fourteen daily and weekly newspapers, seven national television channels, more than a dozen radio stations and several web portals.

Port of Valletta (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Port of Valletta (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Between 1814 and 1964, Malta was under British rule and English is still an official language alongside Maltese. Malta's colonial legacy is also reflected in its media: half of the print media, two daily and five weekly newspapers are published in English. The daily with the largest print run is the English-language Times of Malta, founded in 1935. With around 60,000 readers it is considered a reference newspaper and like its British model The Times charges for some of its online content. The circulations of Malta's print media are without exception in decline, while online media services are rapidly growing. Almost 75 percent of Maltese regularly use the Internet. Malta's social media usage rate per capita is much higher than the EU average.

Whereas the English-language publications are commercially oriented, the country's two largest political parties subsidise their own Maltese-language newspapers. Here media presence rather than economic viability is the name of the game. The institutional influence extends to many media: the ruling Labour Party owns a weekly, a television channel and a radio station and a news portal. The opposition Nationalist Party publishes a daily. The Church owns its own radio station and an online news portal and even the trade-union GWU owns a daily and a weekly newspaper and a news portal, demonstrating the extent to which interest groups use Malta's media market as a mouthpiece.

Thanks to its geographical proximity to Italy, the Maltese have been able to receive Italian television since 1957, five years before the first Maltese TV channel began broadcasting. These stations are still very popular, and nearly 20 percent of Maltese watch Italian television regularly. The market is dominated, however, by the public television broadcaster TVM with an audience quota of one third.

Press Freedom Rating:
Reporters Without Borders: 47th place (2017)
Freedom House: 33rd place (2016)

Updated: May 2017
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