The GSD has asked the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority to amend its broadcasting code to accommodate the fact that the party’s leader, Keith Azopardi, is not the Leader of the Opposition in parliament.
The code sets guidelines as to how radio and television broadcasters in Gibraltar cover news, political broadcasts, elections and referendums, and aims to ensure objectivity and balance in all coverage.
It provides, for example, a right of reply to the Leader of the Opposition in respect of any ministerial statements made by the government.
But that presents the GSD with a challenge because Mr Azopardi is not currently a member of parliament and the role of Leader of the Opposition is held by GSD MP Elliott Phillips.
Without an amendment to the code, it means Mr Azopardi would have to use one of the GSD’s limited number of party political broadcasts to reply to a ministerial statement as GSD leader. The only other option is to let Mr Phillips deliver the reply.
Faced with that dilemma, Gibraltar’s main Opposition party approached the GRA asking it to amend its codes to reflect the party’s new reality.
The GRA has yet to respond to the GSD and last month issued a consultation seeking views from all political parties and independent MPs, as well as from GBC.
“At present the code only makes reference to the right of reply to ministerial statements by the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the GSD argues that in certain cases it would be in the public’s interest that the leader of the main opposition party should have the opportunity to reply to ministerial statements,” the GRA said in its consultation.
The amendment proposed by the GSD would entitle the leader of the main opposition party to reply to any ministerial broadcast.
In seeking the views of stakeholders, the GRA acknowledged that the GSD had posed a valid question given the current circumstances of its leadership.
“The code does not just set the standards on objectivity, impartiality, accuracy and undue prominence, but it is also intended to provide the necessary guidelines on best practice to assist the broadcasters within the jurisdiction of Gibraltar,” the GRA said in its consultation document.
“The GRA recognises that the GSD is the political party with the largest number of members of Parliament on the Opposition bench, and that the party leader’s comments seek to clarify who the broadcasters need to contact to offer a right of reply.”
The GRA is expected to publish its decision on the GSD’s request during the course of this week.
The GSD has repeatedly played down any suggestion that Mr Azopardi’s position as a party leader outside parliament leaves him at a disadvantage.
Mr Phillips was quizzed on this last week during an interview on GBC’s Viewpoint programme.
“It is unusual, of course it is,” he said.
“But look, we live in a community where this has happened, we’re getting on with the job.”
“I’m leading the opposition in Parliament and Keith is leading the party.”