BA aims to improve use of Maltese on the airwaves
by Francesca Vella

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The Broadcasting Authority is aiming to enforce regulations on the correct use of the Maltese language more effectively in a bid to eliminate the use of bastardised Maltese and ensure that producers and presenters fall in line.

A revised code on the correct use of Maltese in broadcast media has been published in a legal notice, which repeals a previous legal notice published in 2002.

Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday, BA chief executive officer Pierre Cassar explains, “The code on the correct use of Maltese in broadcast media has been revised and we want to make sure that the code’s provisions are enforced in a more effective manner.”

One of the provisions stipulates that, “Each station that broadcasts programmes in the Maltese language shall be responsible to have its own consultant who holds a recognised university degree in the Maltese language or who is recognised by the Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti as having the sufficient knowledge and experience in the use of the Maltese language. In any case, the said consultant shall be approved by the Broadcasting Authority”.

While this in itself is nothing new since the provision had also been included in the legal notice that has now been repealed, Mr Cassar pointed out that the BA is to ensure that every station has its own consultant, each of whom would have to be approved.

The BA had commissioned the Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti to draw up a report on the use of Maltese in broadcast media. The report – drawn up by a committee consisting of Ray Fabri, Charles Briffa, Charles Flores, Trevor Zahra and Jean-Pierre Caligari – was published in January 2009.

A consultation process followed, but no feedback from broadcasters had been received. The BA then held meetings with representatives of broadcast media to discuss the way forward.

The report lists a number of problems of the use of Maltese in broadcast media; these include spelling mistakes, mistaken names of localities (Qormi instead of Hal Qormi, for instance), and the use of foreign words and phrases to explain concepts for which Maltese words and phrases also exist (for instance Christmas (Milied), erba’ euros (erba’ ewro).

The committee made a number of recommendations for broadcasters and advised the BA that it should carry out continuous monitoring of programmes to ensure that regulations are enforced.

The report states that if a particular station does not follow the regulations, the owners should be fined, but, in addition to the imposition of fines, the committee also advised means of encouragement for the correct use of Maltese.

This thought was echoed by the BA chief executive officer, who said that the authority’s aim is to sensitise broadcasters on the correct use of the language, which is, after all, an official language of the EU.

By means of the recently published legal notice, broadcasters are obliged to, among other things, understand their responsibility in safeguarding the Maltese language, comply with developments taking place in the language (be it written or spoken), and assist people who take part in a programme, as well as correcting participants who do not use Maltese correctly.

They are also duty-bound to use the neologism creeping into the everyday language very carefully, and to use words that are clear and easy to understand.

Broadcasters are also obliged to follow the rules and directives issued by the Kunsill Nazzjonali tal-Ilsien Malti when using Maltese, and to broadcast at least one programme every three months aimed at improving the language.

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