2. Current cultural affairs
Last update: February, 2015
The main priorities in the past few years have centred on:
- establishing a national cultural policy;
- developing a creative economy strategy;
- providing a platform for national debate on the future of the arts in Malta including theatre censorship;
- professionalising the cultural and creative industries through effective strategies and funding structures;
- preparing the bid for the European Capital of Culture in 2018; and
- identifying cultural infrastructural projects.
In January 2007, St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity launched a think-tank for culture called the Valletta Creative Forum (VCF). The aim of the VCF was to focus on issues challenging contemporary culture in Malta through a series of encounters and working groups which seek to provide concrete proposals and a road map for the future of culture in Malta.
The 2007 edition of the Forum, which tackled six major issues, included the participation of more than 300 stakeholders from the artistic, political, business and governmental sectors, together with more than 20 European speakers and contributors. The forum not only served as a lobby group for cultural development but offered an excellent networking opportunity for all stakeholders. The most successful and tangible outcome of the forum was the inclusion of new measures in the 2007 Government Budget. The outcomes of the forum, together with all the supporting documentation, were published in 2008.
The first sessions focused on:
- cultural governance in Malta and beyond;
- arts and health: the wellbeing of Maltese society;
- arts, heritage and tourism;
- creativity in our local communities;
- show business: sustaining our creative industries;
- cultural diplomacy: endorsing identity & celebrating diversity.
The launch of the Forum reignited the debate on the implementation of the 2001 cultural policy document. A prominent member of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts has also publicly called on government to start implementing a cohesive cultural policy, even though such a role should have been fulfilled by the Council as outlined in the law.
The think-tank had no intention of subscribing to this debate and sought to expose the value of the arts on a social and economic level and lobby for measures towards the professionalisation of the creative industries.
The establishment of the Malta Arts Fund and the Malta Film Fund were two very important and concrete developments by the Culture and Audio Visual Unit (a small team of 3 individuals) within the Culture Ministry to increase the government's commitment towards the cultural sector.
The first priority for the Minister of Culture in 2008 was to appoint a working group for the drafting of a national cultural policy. The national cultural policy was published for public consultation in January 2010. The public consultation programme was held over a 6 month period with various stakeholders providing comments and feedback through public seminars, information sessions and online communication. The submissions by various Ministries, NGOs, Agencies and individuals were evaluated and reviewed for official publication in 2011. The Cultural Policy was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers and a monitoring group has been appointed by the Parliamentary Secretary for Culture to follow-up on the implementation of the policy.
Another important policy development was the announcement of the government's commitment to develop the creative industries as part of the National economic vision for 2015. In all budget speeches since 2008, the Finance Minister announced new measures for the cultural and creative sectors with increased allocations for public cultural institutions, training programmes for cultural operators, infrastructural projects, fiscal measures and investment schemes (see chapter 3.5.1 and chapter 7 for information on recently introduced measures).
The new government elected in March 2013 committed to develop a strong cultural programme, which included, amongst others, proposals to:
- set up a School of Art at the University of Malta;
- establish a Museum of Contemporary Art;
- regenerate the Johan Strauss School of Music;
- give utmost support to the National Philharmonic Orchestra;
- establish a National Gallery for Modern Art;
- set up The National Fund for Excellence;
- establish a National Archive of Oral History;
- strengthen creative niches;
- improve incentives for those businesses that support the arts;
- introduce a free day at the public museums on a regular basis;
- update censorship laws;
- strengthen the National Council for the Maltese Language;
- set up a Consultative Council for film makers.
Themes and objectives of Valletta 2018
As per ECoC regulations set by the EU, the Cultural Programme is to promote a European dimension and encourage citizen participation. Valletta 2018 will enable the participation of the citizens of Malta and Europe and will form an integral and sustainable part of the long-term social, economic and cultural development of Malta. The Cultural Programme is built on four themes: Generations, Routes, Cities and Islands. In conjunction with the Cultural Programme, the Foundation is developing a programme of consistent, accessible and comparable research and evaluation directly linked to culture.
The approach of Valletta 2018 to culture is inclusive and encompasses artistic expression and creativity, and extends to other forms of human expression such as food, the built environment, science and sporting activities.
The Foundation so far has had two different artistic directors, with both appointments considered controversial and highly criticised by different media organisations and segments of the artistic community.
Malta Council for Culture and the Arts rebrands as Arts Council Malta
In 2014, the new chairman of MCCA, Albert Marshall and the new Culture Minister Owen Bonnici, announced the restructuring programme of Arts Council Malta. The major change lies in the structure, which has gone from one entity which previously managed everything from funding and festivals to a larger body with three specific directorates.
The change has long been coming. In recent years, it gradually became clear that the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts was being weighed down by its festivals arm – the Council organises national festivals such as the Malta Arts Festival and Notte Bianca - which absorbed most of its resources, leaving its broader strategic role with a leaner flow.
The creation of a larger entity will enable the separation of the organisation of festivals from the strategic development of the cultural and creative sectors, enabling a distinct focus on both. The implementation of this structure will subsequently impact the improved performance of the Council and will consolidate a stronger agenda for the creative economy.
The creation and development of strategies for the sector will fall under the Strategy Directorate. The Directorate will be built on five strategic focal points which include internationalisation and business development but also research, education and training and diversity and communities, making this an official remit for the first time.
The directorate will also focus on the management and development of the funding portfolio, which currently includes six national funding programmes amounting to around one million euro. A brokerage team will be engaged to assist operators in the cultural and creative sectors to maximise their potential.
In short, the directorate will work on the creation of a one-stop shop for culture, a service hub for those working in the sector, mainly characterised by micro-enterprises and individual operators. This will also include the services offered by the Creative Europe desk in Malta, the new funding programme for the cultural and creative sectors.
Festivals will now fall under their own distinct directorate, whose role will be to focus on the management and development of the diverse festivals portfolio of the Council. With a brief which ranges from ensuring that festival development is built on solid ground to issues such as audience development and cultural participation, it will also create a partnership with existing festivals, with the view of eventually increasing the number of festivals in the calendar.
The restructuring has its eyes set firmly on Valletta 2018 and Malta's legacy of the European Capital of Culture (ECOC). In the end, in 2019, it will be up to the various cultural entities to ensure that the legacy created by Valletta 2018 is absorbed into a permanent structure with lasting benefits.
The third directorate – Corporate Affairs – will provide all the support services for the effective and efficient functioning of the other two distinctive directorates.
Such an extensive reorganisation will involve a process of realignment of the current staff; all the current staff will be absorbed into the three directorates while the necessary public calls will be issued for the filling of new posts.
Such a large-scale reorganisation, in the end, points towards an acknowledgement of the value of the arts to society.
Culture Minister Owen Bonnici pointed out that the restructuring reflects the implementation of the government electoral programme that calls for more coordination and synergy between public entities and increased support for artists and creators. It will also encourage cultural entrepreneurship and will reduce bureaucracy.
Valletta's UNESCO world heritage status
In 2013, UNESCO expressed its concern over the impact of the City Gate Project by world renowned architect Renzo Piano on the outstanding universal value of Valletta. Valletta's UNESCO world heritage status was granted in 1980 and a vociferous campaign was launched in the media objecting to Renzo Piano's design, citing UNESCO's conditions for world heritage status. A report prepared for UNESCO stated that "it is agreed that the development will have no direct negative impact on the outstanding universal value of the property." Moreover, UNESCO had doubts over the impact of the flea market which is to be transferred to Ordinance Street in Valletta, however a report concluded that "both the location and the situation of individual stalls is totally reversible so that there will be no obvious damage to the outstanding universal value of the Valletta world heritage site."
After the government provided all the necessary documentation, the UN agency dropped its reservations over the project. In addition, following the introduction of a mandatory management plan for UNESCO sites in 2005, Malta finally submitted a plan.
Two other major issues dominated the cultural debate in recent years.
1. Opera House Site Development
In June of 2009, the Prime Minister presented Renzo Piano's designs to develop the open space at the entrance of Valletta into the new Parliament House and transform the site which previously housed the Royal Opera House into an open air performance space. The project, budgeted at EUR 80 million, led to a vociferous public debate about the designs, the concept of an open air theatre and the validity of a parliamentary building at the entrance of the city. A u-turn had already occurred after initial plans to place the parliament in the Opera House space were highly criticised by the public. As a reaction, 128 theatre practitioners signed an open letter to the PM expressing disappointment at his final decision to retain the roofless theatre. International Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja and Maltese violinist Carmine Lauri, leader of the London Symphony Orchestra headed the group. The Prime Minister met representatives of the lobby group, however still retained the stand on the open air theatre.
Two positions emerged from the discussion:
- the validity of having a performance space that is open-air; and
- the need for a fully-fledged purposely-built space for the performing arts that can cater for the needs of artists, which are not being addressed in the existing theatres.
The project is now being concluded as an open-air theatre with a Management Board already in place to run the venue; however plans have already been tabled on the development of a purpose built space for the performing arts. This is also expressed in the cultural policy and listed as an infrastructural project in Malta's bid to host the European Capital of Culture in 2018. The lobby group has also formalised its operations through the establishment of APAP (Association for Performing Arts Practitioners).
The open air theatre was opened in 2013 as Pjazza Teatru Rjal. Although the space successfully functions as an open air theatre, the need for a purpose built theatre able to house 21st century productions still echoes within the performing arts circle.
A series of Court cases were filed in the past years by the Police or private individuals on a variety of matters ranging from the banning of a play to the publication of a short story in a university newspaper. The two important cases are still awaiting a final judgment with the banning of the play Stitching awaiting a ruling from the Appeals tribunal of the Constitutional Courts after the first Court ruled in favour of banning. In the case of "Realta", the Attorney General filed an appeal following the Criminal Court's decision in favour of the publisher.
The censorship ball was set rolling in January 2009 when a controversial play, Stitching was "banned and disallowed" by the Board of Stage and Film Classification and thus not allowed to be staged at St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity. The play which had already been performed in other countries dealt with themes of loss, abortion, depression and sexual identity. But due to accusations of blasphemy and references to Auschwitz, sexual servitude and the abduction and assault of children, the Board of classification decided the whole play was "an insult to human dignity." From day one of the ban, the producers, Unifaun, believed the board had completely misread the script, something they felt would not have happened had the board watched it being performed.
Although at first the producers said they would defy the ban, they later chose to battle things in court. They called on the Maltese judge to actually watch the play instead of relying on the written script but he refused.
In June 2010 the Civil Court found that the Film and Stage Classification Board did not violate freedom of expression when it banned the play Stitching last year. The court, in a 115-page judgement, said it had been asked to decide whether the decision by the board to stop the staging of the play had violated freedom of expression. It had no hesitation in saying that the decision of the board was correct and according to law. The court said the board was obliged to follow the law. The presiding Magistrate stated that there was nothing unreasonable in the board having viewed the play as being offensive to the culture of this country in its broadest sense. The judgement claimed that it was not proper, even in a democratic and pluralistic society of Malta, for the lows of human dignity to be exalted even on the pretext of showing how a couple could survive a storm.
One could not make extensive use of language which was vulgar, obscene and blasphemous and which exalted perversion and undermined the right to life. Neither could one undermine the dignity of women including the victims of the holocaust, reduce women to a simple object of sexual gratification, and ridicule the family.
A civil, democratic, and tolerant society could not allow its values to be turned upside down simply because there was freedom of expression.
The court said the board was right to view the play as exalting perversion as if it was acceptable behaviour. Bestiality, the stitching up of a vagina as an act of sexual pleasure and having a woman eat somebody else's excrement, rape and infanticide were unacceptable, even in a democratic society.
Furthermore, the fact that a person was allowed to blaspheme in public, even on stage, went against the law.
The court therefore found that there had been no violation of fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights when the play was banned. In an appeal filed by the claimants, the Constitutional Court of Appeal upheld in November 2012 a ban on performing the production.
The producers have taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights and are currently awaiting judgement.
"Li tkisser sewwi"
In November 2009, a student newspaper was banned from University because it contained a graphic fictional short story about sexual violence by Alex Vella Gera. The newspaper was initially flagged by the University Chaplain, leading the Rector to call for the removal of the papers and file a police report. The editor, a 21-year-old history student, has been questioned by the police but charges have not been brought against him. The incident prompted him to set up the Front against Censorship which is lobbying to change laws on obscene libel, vilification of religion and stage and film classification.
Although the news sparked outrage with pundits, opinion-makers and press bodies, the KSU president refused to read the story or comment on it, and the head of the Communications Departments which runs the Journalism and Media courses at the University defended the police action. Only a handful of lecturers and students actually stood up to defend the publication, which is a small radical leftist paper with a very limited readership. The publishers decided to defy the ban by publishing the paper online.
Magistrate Audrey Demicoli acquitted Mr Vella Gera and Mark Camilleri, editor of the student newspaper Ir-Realtà where the story had been published, but the Attorney General filed an Appeal on the decision with the defence lawyer stating that the Attorney General was "out of touch with historical realities of society".
In response to the issue of censorship, which fell under the portfolio of the Justice Ministry, the Culture Minister stated in Parliament that the cultural policy was to address a drastic review of the current classification system. The expert note by the Council of Europe experts on the draft cultural policy also highlights the need for Malta to urgently address issues of freedom of creative expression. In response to this matter the National Cultural Policy states that "In terms of freedom of expression, legislation shall be reviewed in order to ensure that the classification of works reflects the maturity of a 21st century public in a contemporary society."
Amendments towage-Classification Regulations
Following the widespread controversies raised by "Stitching" and "Li tkisser sewwi" awareness grew on laws affecting censorship in Malta. In the light of a number of protests, it was announced in January 2012 by the Minister of Tourism and Culture that there will be amendments to the Stage and Film Classification Framework for a system of self-classification under which producers of theatrical productions would be responsible for setting the age classification of a performance. As of 24 July 2013, the provisions of Legal Notice 416/2012 with regards to film age-classification came into force. The system of self-regulation allows for the producer and director and in some instances, the venue, to be responsible for setting the age-classification of a performance. Film classification is now no longer under the Police Laws but under the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts Act.
This information will be published as soon as possible.
This information will be published as soon as possible.
Last update: February, 2015
Malta's cultural policy calls for the need to improve and extend the use of IT tools in cultural management and in the dissemination of knowledge, including the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material, through synergies with IT stakeholders. Investment in national audiovisual heritage, whether it is publicly broadcasted material of historical and cultural value, film heritage or other audiovisual material held publicly and privately, shall ensure that national archival digitisation and accessibility needs are addressed. The initiatives detailed above must be implemented within the structuring framework of a strategy for the sector, taking into account the contributions of key stakeholders such as Malta Enterprise, the Malta Film Commission, public and private broadcasters, and audiovisual companies, and based on the legislative framework of the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive.
In 2009, St. James Cavalier launched the first live screening from the Royal Opera House, followed by a season from the Met and the National Theatre (UK). Private cinemas are now also screening live opera and ballet from Covent Garden.
Digitisation was a major concern for Maltese cinema exhibitors with film distributors opting for exclusive digital distribution in 2013. Out of 37 screens only 5 were digital and significant investment was required for the digitisation process. In 2013, government announced a cinema digitisation scheme with an investment of EUR 500 000 to support the digitisation of 25 screens in Malta and Gozo.
Private entrepreneurs have entered the cultural sector by providing support for and initiating high-tech multi-media projects, many of which are targeted at tourists. Moreover, Malta's unique Hypogeum (a prehistoric underground burial site) has been installed with digital technology to protect it environmentally.
The Malta Centre for Restoration has introduced conservation schemes, which include the use of new technologies to combine cost-effective project management in science with the latest documentation techniques.
According to internetworldstats.com, Malta has 240 600 Internet users as of June/10, 58.9% penetration, per ITU with 189 900 Facebook users on June 30/11, 46.5% penetration rate.
Government is actively pursuing the adoption of Open Source Software (OSS) that is cost-effective and non-disruptive. Malta transposed the new set of telecommunications rules and implemented its digital switchover in TV, as part of Europe-wide process to better manage wireless frequencies. Malta was one of just nine EU member states that carried out the transposition of the new telecoms package on time and without problems.
E-books are not yet available in public libraries in Malta although all local libraries have been computerised. This means clients can access information through the library website using their library card number to search and renew borrowed books online. Thanks to this system an increase of 23 000 books have been borrowed up to the end of October 2011 when compared with the end of December2010. Since the National Library is now being digitised, manuscripts that are out of copyright, including the archives of the Knights of St John, old newspapers and paragraphs and chapters of certain books can now be read online.
In the 2010 and 2012 National Budgets, government announced numerous fiscal benefits to encourage investments in new technologies (see chapter 4.1.4). In order to stimulate the indigenous growth of local game companies and attract existing professionals to shift from related industries in Budget 2012 Government announced the setting up of the Malta Games Fund with an allocation of EUR 150 000.
Last update: February, 2015
Since Malta had no official policy for cross-border intercultural dialogue till 2009, ad hoc government programmes supporting trans-national intercultural dialogue were normally implemented either by the Ministries responsible for Culture and Education (via its agencies and through a substantial number of courses and scholarships) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Following EU accession, the movement of young Maltese increased dramatically, mostly by virtue of the youth programmes offered by the Commission and managed by the National Agency catering for such programmes. On the other hand, a private body like the Youth Travel Circle offers plenty of opportunity for outgoing and incoming cultural tourism.
There is a focus for co-operation on youth culture which is realised through many EU programmes. Following a number of irregularities in accounting procedures at the National Agency the European Commission suspended Malta from the European Union's Education Programmes - Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action. However in July 2011 the suspension was lifted as remedial actions were confirmed to have been taken accordingly.
Inizjamed, the Jesuit Refugee Services, IOM and SOS Malta are major NGOs which have developed intercultural projects with the inclusion of migrant communities and artists from Mediterranean countries.
A notable project developed in 2014 by SOS Malta was Intercultural Malta: Towards the Achievement of Integration in Malta through the Intercultural Cities Approach. This project is co-funded by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals (EIF) 2011. The project's main objective is to develop, through the exchange of experience and ideas, recommendations and guidelines for the creation of intercultural cities in Malta that actively promote and enable the integration of third country nationals into Maltese society. SOS Malta held a Pan-European Conference on good practice of integrating immigrants within society. The conference included speakers from European countries who will share their good practice of promoting integration through the intercultural cities approach.
As a result, the project brought together discussions from the conference and workshops to develop a set of recommendations that can be applied to Maltese cities that wish to explore how they can promote integration and cultural diversity in a positive way within their city or town (http://www.sosmalta.org/interculturalmalta).
Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes
Policy measures addressing aspects of intercultural dialogue are mainly been developed by a number of Ministries, namely those responsible for Education, Social Solidarity and Civil rights. The National Cultural Policy contextualises intercultural dialogue as a contemporary communicative process between people who do not seek to suppress identity, homogenise identities or impose a dominant culture. The democratisation of intercultural dialogue calls for a knowledgeable understanding of one's culture and that of other cultures through creative projects which reach out to, and are developed within, different communities.
Although there is no national authority or agency exclusively responsible for intercultural matters the issue of intercultural dialogue does not specifically constitute a primary focus of the remit of the Ministry for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, yet the Ministry has been an active contributor on the issue through the development of a number of measures (including legal, policy focused and service-delivery initiatives) that have been or are being adopted to enhance social cohesion, increase the social inclusion prospects of vulnerable groups and promote social solidarity between people of divergent cultural backgrounds. Therefore, the Ministry has been pivotal in the development of inclusion and integration policies as well as in the enactment of a number of legal frameworks (described in more detail below) that concern measures to target racism, combat discrimination and advance the welfare of third country nationals. SOS Malta administers the European Fund for the Integration of Third-country Nationals and is very active in intercultural projects focusing on social inclusion, empowerment, integration and re-integration of Migrants.
Malta's National Strategy for the 2008 European Year for Intercultural Dialogue stated that the year waste be a unique opportunity for Malta to include intercultural dialogue as one of its key policy measures in order to:
- raise awareness of the intercultural dimension of the country by reaching out to the wider community through culture and the arts; and
- focus on education as a means of introducing intercultural concepts and the value of intercultural dialogue into the curriculum.
Policy must ensure that these challenges offer an opportunity for growth and development to:
- promote dialogue between cultures, both on a local level as well as on an international level;
- discover the roots of European culture and observe similarities and diversities of these cultures;
- facilitate the diffusion of information on intercultural dialogue;
- support initiatives which extend intercultural opportunities available to individuals and groups;
- stimulate society towards an appreciation of the arts and culture in its different forms and relating to the different communities residing in Malta;
- assist primary and secondary schools to develop appreciation and learning among students of the different cultures interacting in their daily life;
- create intersections between the community and the artists in order to increase awareness of cultural diversity among the local population;
- facilitate and support initiatives by creative individuals and groups in order to foster social transformation for an inclusive culture which, through sharing values, can thrive and progress;
- promote studies and allocate resources towards the safeguarding of ethnic minorities;
- give artists the necessary tools to empower them in their role as active ambassadors of intercultural dialogue; and
- create an international platform for artists to engage in dialogue and exchange.
The 2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue in Malta, held under the distinguished patronage of H.E Dr Edward Fenech Adami, President of Malta, was developed mainly through creative experiences that facilitated debates, encounters and engaging intercultural processes and coordinated by the St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity.
The objective of this project was to increase the awareness of Maltese people, particularly the younger generation, about the cultures that played their part throughout the history of our country in the moulding of the Maltese culture making it what it is today, alongside these considering those influences that are playing a new role in the inevitable continuation of this living process.
During the year, more than 50 events developed by various organisations such as the National Coordinating Body, European Institutions, Local Councils, NGOs and individual artists presented an extensive intercultural programme that reached thousands of people and generated great media interest. Above all, the projects presented an ideal platform for dialogue during which people could share their personal intercultural experiences and normalise intercultural dialogue as a way of life.
Malta's national project for intercultural dialogue entitled F.I.V.E invited members of diverse cultures living in Malta to collaborate on a number of creative projects through which the five senses became the common thread that unify our intercultural experiences.
The objective was to increase the awareness of the influences exchanged between various cultures that co-exist in Malta in order to create a dialogue and increased understanding of these cultures. The hands-on activities, targeting various audiences, ranged from concerts for children that introduced music and stories to young children, market stalls with artisans from Europe and the Mediterranean sharing their craft in-situ with their Maltese counterparts, photography workshops and exhibitions by youths from different cultural communities and 4 seasonal exhibitions in supermarkets tracing the intercultural journey of food.
Relevant culture policy actions:
- develop intercultural competences and multilingualism, both in educational programmes addressed to children and young people and in the training of education and culture professionals which are of direct relevance to the social and demographic changes taking place today in Maltese and international society;
- support the development of a civil society platform for the screening of policies and the promotion of initiatives for intercultural dialogue; and
- channels shall be sought to further develop creative writing courses, as well as provide support for journalists and broadcasters in the field of cultural journalism, independent journalism, and sensitivity and awareness of intercultural issues.
Government's overall approach to intercultural dialogue
Last update: February, 2015
Intercultural education in Malta is part of the general school set-up and the curriculum does involve provisions for intercultural education. In fact, the Ministry of Education issued a Policy Paper (2004) declaring intercultural, inclusive policy as one of its main objectives on a national level. The main tenets of this policy entail shared national values and identity, the promotion of tolerance and equality. Students of a foreign origin, mainly African, attending state schools, show a natural preference for learning native Maltese and often use it socially. On the other hand, a privately run International School of English offers a different, multilingual environment.
Examples of initiatives taken by specialised schools to introduce artistic experiences from other parts of the world can be quoted from the programmes at the Malta Drama Centre (African programmes featuring drama and drum dancing or dramatised poetry from Palestine). However, such activities are not yet strongly embedded as part of the minimum national curriculum. At the pre-university level, a subject called Systems of Knowledge does focus on efforts to develop cultural citizenship as part of arts/cultural education aimed at increasing students' knowledge of human rights, citizens' rights and responsibilities, understanding of different world religions and influences of different cultures within a given society.
In 2009, St. James Cavalier devised an intercultural dialogue school activity pack. The pack, consisting of 13 lesson plans, was created by educators and artists to provide teachers with creative ideas on how to address intercultural dialogue in the classroom.
Last update: February, 2015
There are no anti-trust measures to prevent media concentration in Malta and the share of domestic versus imported media programmes amounts to approximately 80%. Government provides the Public Broadcaster with a budget of EUR 3.2 million (2014) to commission content for television and radio. However, the content value is hotly contested by media analysts and commentators. A report on TV (local) programmes, published in a qualitative survey by Ernst and Young for the Media Desk within the EU Affairs Directorate of the Culture Ministry (June, 2006), highlighted the lack of quality in Maltese broadcasting as well as the fact that on Maltese television, "there is too much teleshopping and not enough education." Plagiarism ("mediocre copying") of foreign programmes also came into sharp focus in the Report prepared for the EU Affairs Directorate. On the other hand, there are no specific training programmes for journalists or broadcasting producers, but the University of Malta offers a Communication Studies Course, based largely on theory. The recruitment of media personnel for the two political audio-visual channels, belonging to the Nationalist Party (in Opposition) and the Labour Party (in Government) respectively, depends completely on party affiliation and purchasing power to acquire airtime.
The Broadcasting Act of 1991 abolished the state monopoly over the media and liberalised the market. Afterwards, the two major political parties and the Catholic Church became actively involved in audio-visual production. The liberalisation also led to economic growth, with a significant increase in advertising revenue, and the provision of job opportunities for journalists and broadcasters at private and community stations.
The Public Broadcasting Service has a specific company memorandum that requires the provision of radio and television programmes "of an educational and cultural nature", as well as programmes that meet the "entertainment needs of the public". Moreover, the Maltese Broadcasting Authority stresses that public broadcasting should take into account the provision of the best information, education and entertainment, as well as the exploration and "promotion of national identity, social values and culture."
The diffusion of homogenous mass entertainment became widely criticised because of its purely consumer-oriented approach without any intellectual challenge. Another concern is the politicisation of the media in a country that is already politically and culturally divided.
The Ministry of Education had been operating its own educational broadcasting programmes, while the Public Broadcasting Services, which also belong to the portfolio of the same Ministry, runs the national channel TVM. From 2011, the Education Channel was integrated within the structure of the Public Broadcasting Corporation. In 2013, TVM 2 was launched to focus on cultural, educational and sports programming.
Local councils and small communities, including religious groups, are pushing for more community radio channels. Currently, there are 21 community radio channels (eleven of which belong to Church-related groups) with limited hours on the air per day. There are no definitive quota regulations but surveys have shown that the Maltese maintain a constant preference for locally generated programmes. It is estimated that approximately 65%-75% of prime-time media broadcasting is produced in Malta. There have been intermittent attempts in the media to induce public broadcasting to follow EU recommendations in favour of sub-titling foreign material in Maltese and to introduce more films from EU countries, but the situation remains poorly monitored and positive results have not been forthcoming.
Another area of concern involves children's programmes, declared by the Broadcasting Authority as being of consistently low quality and mainly used as fillers (Report, 2000). Aware that the situation has remained stubbornly negative, the Broadcasting Authority called a national conference on broadcasting in 2006, where the quality of locally produced material was severely criticised. An audience survey by the Broadcasting Authority itself (2005) has shown that a third of viewers with a tertiary education do not watch any Maltese TV, while two Mediaset (Italian) channels are favourite among younger and more educated Maltese viewers.
To remedy the situation somehow, in 2006, the government allocated 240 000 EUR to improve the local production of children's programmes. The Culture Ministry also issued directives on how the government's subvention should be spent. The directives are aimed at "increasing programme quality and offering better service to the public". Twelve categories of cultural enhancement through broadcasting were identified, including Maltese drama, children's programmes, religious production, debate and current events.
In a report written by a local media expert for the European Journalism Centre in 2003, it was perceived that "broadcasting in Malta is to expand further". The impressive advances made by Malta in the information technology sector, including the creation of a fully fledged IT Ministry, may lead to more extensive proliferation of web-based media or dot.com companies.
Malta is a signatory to the Trans-frontier Convention of the Council of Europe and there have been proposals for Malta to become a centre for international broadcasting companies which would transmit from Malta to Europe and the rest of the world.
With the majority of programmes on the national station farmed out to private audio-visual companies, commercialisation has superseded the quality cultural content that any national broadcasting station should achieve. In a recent parliamentary debate, MPs from both political parties agreed that the national broadcasting station needs to increase its promotion of culture and that a national review of national broadcasting should lead to a dedicated channel on culture and sports. An audit report had recently found PBS was under-funded, especially in drama programmes which were not necessarily backed up by advertising, which had dropped by some 30% or EUR 3 million.
In order to encourage private television stations to develop and promote cultural content, Budget 2015 introduced a new allocation of EUR 300 000.
Relevant cultural policy actions:
- the Broadcasting Authority and Public Broadcasting Services shall actively support initiatives to fully realise the potential of the media to improve access to culture; and
- the Ministry shall bring together all stakeholders of the audiovisual industry to develop a framework strategy for the audiovisual sector, taking into consideration issues pertaining to broadcasting, state aid, training, capacity building, film and cinema.
Last update: February, 2015
The Constitution of the Republic of Malta recognises Maltese as the national language, but identifies both Maltese and English as languages for official communication.
The Maltese language is the most important factor determining the identity of the people. The influence of globalisation and the rapidly developing information technology has introduced a growing number of new elements to the language itself, which has necessitated the careful evaluation of its current status. In 2005, on the initiative of the Ministry of Education, a National Council was created to cater for the current needs and the development of the Maltese language. The National Council for the Maltese Language (NCML), based in Valletta, is responsible for producing strategic positions on the protection, enhancement and development of the national language, including the promotion of Maltese literature.
According to an in-depth report carried in the media in March 2006, the NML considers that the official position of Maltese is strong, with "a firm hold in important fields of cultural life and religion." However, the Council acknowledges that the Maltese language has been "traditionally absent" from areas such as the civil service, the sciences, economy, higher education and youth entertainment, which are of great importance in the minds of the people. The Council believes that "much remains to be done when it comes to people's linguistic self-confidence and their attitudes towards their own language."
The recognition of the Maltese language by the European Union in May 2002 was enthusiastically received by writers, academics and the intelligentsia, also in view of the overseas employment possibilities for Maltese authors, translators, editors and proof readers to work in EU programmes and organisations. The first official translations of EU material in 2003 created a stir in that they were not of the required standard, a problem that was not perceived as urgent. Such new circumstances have prompted the government to accelerate legislative provisions for the protection and development of the native language and to install university programmes to provide training for translation/interpreters (the first graduates were accredited in 2006-2007).
In January 2007, the National Council for Language launched an initiative which will determine the standard use of orthographic variants in the national language. The first national seminar involved writers, editors, journalists, translators, educators and examiners. The issue has become pressing, given the heavy influx of foreign words, particularly from the English and Italian languages which have been embedded in the Maltese language, the only Semitic language spoken and written in Europe. Meanwhile, Maltese translators working at the European Union's institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg were expecting an increase in their workload after EU derogation was lifted in May 2007. The Maltese government had been awarded three-year derogation on translating EU documents into Maltese, so as to prepare translators professionally for the job, after Malta joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.
The Broadcasting Authority is monitoring the use of the Maltese language, an issue which is often charged with emotions. This function has required training in Maltese speaking and writing among media/broadcasting personnel. The Malta Board of Standards has always been working intensely to harmonise the Maltese language with the requirements of new information technologies. However, there is a serious bone of contention relating to the use of Maltese on broadcasting stations, even on the national channel (Radio Malta and Malta Television). Most of the criticism is directed at poorly prepared presenters, entertainers and sports commentators. There is also criticism about the technical quality of presentation, including poor diction and garbled speech, which is detrimental to the national language.
One area that is receiving particular attention involves the Maltese language and its use in ICT. The two institutions dealing with the issue are the Technical Committee for Maltese in ICT, operating within the Council for the Maltese Language (2005) and the Malta Standards Authority. The use of Maltese in ICT was greatly enhanced in April 2006, with the launch of Microsoft Windows XP in Maltese.
Last update: February, 2015
Gender issues in Malta are contained in the programmes of the National Council of Women (established in 1964) and the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE). There are no specific strategies to support women as professionals in the cultural labour market in the form of quota schemes or mainstreaming programmes. It has been noted that more and more young women are opting for university courses and, in recent years, there has been a marked increase in female participation in evening courses in the creative arts, especially theatre and dance. Female writers are also leaving a noticeable mark. In 2006 a leading publishing house printed a cutting-edge, controversial anthology of short stories by a young female writer who broke new ground by introducing unorthodox themes like lesbianism and oppressive patriarchy. Clare Azzopardi's novel il-Linja l-Hadra also won Best Maltese novel in the 2006 National Book Awards. In 2009 and 2011 Malta's foremost female playwright Simone Spiteri won the Francis Ebejer playwriting competition. In 2013 newcomer Leanne Ellul followed suit and won the "Writing for the Theatre" category.
Table 4: Band club membership in Malta, 2010
|Male %||Female %|
|Resident band players||75.6||24.4|
|Trainee band players||68.2||31.8|
Source: National Statistics Office.
The majority of students attending dance classes were females (86%), of whom 69% were under 18 years of age. On the other hand, 85% of males were in the 18 to 64 age bracket. Males showed a preference for salsa, followed by Latin American and ballroom dancing. Female students preferred classical ballet, followed by jazz and modern dance. The most popular types of dance taught were classical ballet (23 schools), jazz (13 schools) and modern dance (13 schools).
Table 5: Dance classes membership in Malta, 2010
|Male %||Female %|
Source: National Statistics Office
Last update: February, 2015
is information will be published as soon as possible.
Last update: February, 2015
Cultural diversity is listed as a cross-cutting objective of Malta's Cultural Policy. The Policy states that the increasing diversity of cultures and identities which make up Maltese society should be viewed as a key contributor to Malta's success in its social and economic interaction with the rest of globalised society. The Policy builds on the existence, recognition and promotion of diversity in all its forms, be it gender, age, social background, ethnicity, ability, religion, or sexual orientation, among others.
Research into cultural diversity in Malta is limited to census data and citizenship statistics on the Maltese and non-Maltese population. During 2010 an estimated 8 201 persons immigrated to Malta. Around 15% of these immigrants were returned migrants while more than three-quarters of the total immigrants originated from EU Member States. Nearly half of the immigrants were aged between 25 and 49. Total emigration during 2010 stood at 5 954. During the year under review, an estimated 1 863 Maltese nationals emigrated. Of all the emigrants, 47% were EU nationals, and another 21% were third country nationals. More than half the emigrants were aged between 25 and 49. The net migration for 2010 was estimated at 2 247. 24 boats arrived in Malta with 2 008 irregular immigrants in 2013, being the highest since 2008. This was an increase of 6.2% of irregular immigrants arriving by boat in 2013 when compared to the previous year.
The population of non-Maltese is composed of citizens from diverse countries, with a large presence of citizens from the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Serbia and Libya. Information about second and third generation migrants is currently not available. The Indian-Maltese French, German, Maltese-Australian and Italian communities are well established and active communities. New communities from African countries are slowly being created; however they face numerous challenges in integrating with other communities.
Recent large-scale irregular migration around the Mediterranean has provoked unprecedented anxiety among large sections of the Maltese citizenry. In 2001,the Ministry of Home Affairs created the position of Commissioner for Refugees, whose job it is to address the issue of illegal immigrants and others seeking asylum. Prior to the establishment of the Commissioner's Office, the issue was being almost exclusively handled by Dar l-Emigrant (The Migrant's Home), an extensive mission run by the Church. Another Church organisation, the Jesuit Refugee Centre, is another key stakeholder.
Records have shown that, over the past five years, more than 1 500 immigrants have made their way to Malta every year with a sharp decline in 2010 which registered 47 irregular immigrants. Considering Malta's high density (1 700 people per square km), the issue has solicited a huge debate in the national media, with the Catholic Church (which established a Refugee Service run by Jesuits) insisting on its own definite stand against emerging racism. A Policy Paper, published in 2005 by the Ministry for Home Affairs, includes sections relating to the ethnic, religious and cultural rights of refugees and illegal immigrants whose application for status is under consideration.
Following local and international pressure, the government is actively implementing new strategies to address the cultural needs of the irregular migrant community.
In 2011 various Public organisations and NGOs devised numerous intercultural projects with the migrant community. Some notable examples are the project organised by SOS Malta, called Same Difference co-funded by the European Refugee Fund Annual Programme 2011. The project was an integration initiative that seeks to explore what makes people belong in a community and how they might belong more through the interaction of sharing food and experiences. Banana mandazi — made from a mix of bananas, eggs, flour and sugar – were among the interesting dishes offered up for tasting to the public at the Prime Minister's Office in Valletta. Another project funded by the European Commission and the Council of Europe was the Diversity Blend Fest, a three day festival organised by Dingli Local Council, a small rural locality in Malta. The festival brought together music acts by popular Maltese performers and members of migrant communities.
In terms of National Legislation aimed at enhancing social cohesion and combating discrimination on issues of race and ethnic origin, thus indirectly also supporting intercultural dialogue, the Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity has implemented the following legal frameworks and provisions:
- the enactment and implementation of LN 85 of 2007 entitled Equal Treatment of Persons Order. In view of this enactment, the remit of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality has been extended and provided with the powers to investigate complaints regarding discrimination on the grounds of racial and ethnic origin; and
- the enactment of Subsidiary Legislation 318.6 entitled Social Security (UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees) Order through Legal Notice 291 of 2001. Through this legal notice, the provisions of the Social Security Act have been extended to those persons who, in terms of the provisions of the Refugees Act, are acknowledged as refugees by the Commissioner for Refugees.
The Catholic community is predominantly the largest religious community in Malta. By Decree of the 5th March 2005, as proposed by the Diocesan Synod, a Commission for Culture was established within the Pastoral Secretariat of the Archdiocese of Malta. The idea behind the setting up of this Commission is that of helping the Christian community to safeguard every historic memory, in order to better understand the different aspects of the patrimony entrusted to this community.
The aims of the Commission are those of promoting culture of a Christian inspiration, building up documentation related to culture and keeping in contact with other entities of this nature, established by the ecclesiastical authorities.
In October 2009, the Archdiocese of Malta published a document for public consultation on the reform of external patron saint festivities in villages. The report states that the Church shouldered ultimate responsibility for the feasts, in the churches and outside. The Church document was aimed at improving the feasts by removing those elements which are against unity, religious respect and public morality. However, band clubs and committees who organise the external festivities criticised the report for its interference in festivities.
Relevant cultural policy actions:
- provide training to empower local authorities and community leaders to become catalysts for the cultural enrichment and fulfilment of the community at local level; and
- support and promote initiatives to promote diversity in cultural expression, intercultural dialogue and migrant integration.
Last update: February, 2015
The aim of "democratising culture and the arts" has been declared, officially, since the year 2000, when a framework document for the establishment of the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts (MCCA) was presented to the Cabinet of Ministers. The National Cultural Policy addresses matters of social cohesion through cultural inclusion involving social, physical, intellectual and economic accessibility. In close collaboration with the National Commission for Persons with a Disability, the Malta Federation of Organisations Persons with Disability, and the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality, the Policy supports initiatives that aim to overcome discrimination or exclusion and improving access for all. It also asserts the need for empowerment at all levels of the community whereby Malta's diversity of cultural expression is rooted in community art and voluntary activity. NGOs, local councils and cultural societies are key players in the thriving cultural life of local communities. The National Cultural Policy recognises that accessing culture may often be hindered by the purchasing power of audiences. However, a large part of the public may feel excluded from certain cultural manifestations for cultural rather than economic reasons. The various agencies are therefore encouraged to create audience development programmes specifically targeting new audiences.
Two new initiatives established in 2011 affirm Malta's commitment towards further social cohesion in culture. A small funding programme was established under the Office of the President of the Republic of Malta known as Il-Premju tal-President għall-Kreattivita`. The programme targets the development of young talent and the dissemination of arts-driven projects which engage with children and young people in the community. Its focused approach on young people and its emphasis on promoting social and community development programmes through art is a reflection of a society which rewards and fosters talent from an early age, supports the recognition of excellence in art and creativity, and ensures that opportunities for developing creativity are freely accessible to all. The awards programme focuses on the categories children, youth and communities:
- disadvantaged students in primary and secondary schools with exceptional talent. Nominations must be presented by educators in formal, informal or non-formal learning;
- young people between 17 and 25 who would like to conduct research and development in a creative project in collaboration with a cultural operator. These should be projects with professional ambitions; and
- organisations and institutions working with creators to develop projects for disadvantaged children and young people.
Another important initiative is the Ziguzajg Arts Festival for children and young people that presents a week-long festival of Maltese and International performances to children and young people. The festival organised by St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity under the auspices of the Prime Minister is now a yearly festival with the aim of presenting excellent and accessible artistic productions to young audiences.
Voluntary activity on a local level is motivated by strong cultural ownership and pride. The majority of the village halls/ theatres/ music halls are community based with 664 individuals working in these theatres on a voluntary basis (2013). There are 90 village band clubs in Malta providing ongoing musical programmes and music training in honour of the village Patron Saint. Resident and trainee band players in 2010 amounted to 4 123 - an increase of 3% when compared to 2009. Of these, 1 546 were trainee band players - 287 paying and 1 259 non- paying trainees. The share of total band club participation of the total population aged 5-84 was estimated at nearly 8%. The largest number of resident band players was recorded in the South Eastern district (21%), and was followed by Gozo and Comino and the Northern Harbour district. There was also high active participation in local community events (2010) (see also chapter 6.2 participation in community and cultural events).
Relevant culture policy actions:
- enforce measures to improve access wherever possible, in cultural sites and venues and in facilitating the provision of services for persons with a disability, in close collaboration with the National Commission for Persons with Disability;
- establish funding streams to support creativity-oriented programmes that provide opportunities for disadvantaged groups to actively contribute to the cultural life of the community;
- define a programme of initiatives to facilitate access to culture in schools, hospitals, correctional facilities, and other spaces not necessarily associated with culture;
- support the establishment of a Community Cultural Support Network, bringing together cultural entities, Local Councils, NGOs and community support agencies to facilitate capacity building, to promote creativity, social inclusion and cultural accessibility, and to maximise resources;
- conduct a review of cultural operations and events that are publicly funded, to assess existing outreach and audience development measures, and define outreach criteria for event selection or public funding; and
- prioritise the inclusion of, and relevance to, local underprivileged communities in the culture-led regeneration of urban environments.
This information will be published as soon as possible.
Last update: February, 2015
Issues debated in the media in recent years
2009 brought an end to a major controversy on the planned extensions of the St. John's Co-Cathedral museum in Valletta. The Foundation which manages the Cathedral with equal representatives appointed by the Prime Minister and the Archbishop made two alternative proposals to improve the quality of the museum environment and to increase the exhibition space for its vast rich collection including 29 tapestries. The plans were highly criticised by environmental and heritage NGOs due to the negative impact that they might incur to the site: that of building extra exhibition space in the courtyard which is also a burial site of St. John's Cathedral or excavating chambers underneath St John's Street and connecting them to existing subterranean water reservoirs. Public outcry was mainly fuelled by lack of public consultation on the project and the lack of Economic Impact Assessments that were not yet submitted by the Foundation. The Foundation also refused to consider relocating its collection in a building close to the Co-Cathedral claiming that the museum artefacts are the patrimony of the Co-Cathedral and should be displayed under one roof or within the same premises and should not be dispersed. The media gave prominence to the six month long debate which led the Prime Minister and the Archbishop to recommend to the members of the Foundation of St. John's Co-Cathedral to abandon the project. The announcement came just a few hours before Parliament was due to debate an Opposition motion urging the government to withdraw its support for the project.
Even though the traditional feast of the patron saint in Maltese and Gozitan villages is often linked to communal celebration at a local level, in 2009 a national debate was sparked by the Archdiocese of Malta. A Church consultation document on the celebration of feasts in Malta's towns and villages was launched on the 5th October by Archbishop Paul Cremona. The document tackles every aspect of the feasts and is aimed at removing pique and restoring the religious and community aspects of the celebrations.
The document also highlights the issue of the popular band marches which have often been criticised by the Church for their exaggeration, including the manner of dress, the songs and words that are chanted, the consumption of alcohol and the duration of the marches.
Festa enthusiasts have vociferously criticised the document, with leading anthropologist Jeremy Boissevain claiming in an interview to the Times of Malta that band marches are "secular activities" intended to entertain the public and since they fall outside the liturgical ritual of the feast, the Church has no reason to control them. Public order offences should instead be a matter for the police.
Royalties for Maltese music
The guild of Maltese Composers, Songwriters, Singers and Musicians (U.K.AM) in 2009 held an extraordinary general meeting to voice its concerns about the royalties which the collecting society PRS (Performing Rights Society) is bound to give to the rightful artists. Such complaints go back to 1991, clearly showing that the rightful writers at the time were not getting their dues and thus asking for P.R.S. to intervene.
PRS is licensed by the government of Malta to collect and distribute royalties to local artists and the society had collected an average of EUR 500 000 a year from Malta. PRS claims that of the total collection for 2007, over half (52%) was paid to Maltese songwriters and composers for the use of their music in Malta. However, UKAM claims that Maltese artists are still owed up to EUR 200 000 for 2007 alone, while the amount in unpaid royalties dating back to the 1990s still has to be quantified.
Government's administration operates within a highly political environment and all public cultural organisations are not only led by politically appointed individuals at board level but most appointments in leadership positions are often also politically charged. These appointments carried out by both major political parties have often stirred a vociferous public debate on the expertise required to run public cultural organisations and the impact of such appointments on the future of the cultural sector. The new government was also elected on the call for meritocracy in such appointments, however this commitment was fairly criticised in the media since it was rarely implemented as promised to the electorate.