Former PBS chief John Bundy has won his industrial tribunal case over unfair dismissal in 2017 over problems that occurred as a result of Media Today’s Managing Director Saviour Balzan’s objections to changes in the programming schedule.
After three years in court, the Industrial Tribunal decided that Bundy could not have been dismissed without being given a chance to defend himself and termed his dismissal irregular, unfair and illegal.
The tribunal said that once Bundy’s employment had been terminated after only one year in his five-year contract, he should be compensated with the full payment of the contract, amounting to €226,488.
Evidence from the court hearings show that while Bundy had his contract terminated due to what the board claimed to be infringements of public procurement rules over the lease of cars, there were several other clashes with the same board, particularly over the TV schedule for the following television season.
Bundy told the court that his attempts to remove Balzan’s current affairs programme from its prime time allocation due to financial difficulties faced by TVM led to a strong reaction. He said in his testimony that Balzan had called him to warn: “You will do as I say.”
The former PBS chief explained that his decision was based on the fact that current affairs programmes were not commercially viable for PBS, preferring drama and other entertainment programmes allocated to prime time slots that would make the public broadcaster generate more income through advertising.
Bundy said that while everyone agreed, including Reno Bugeja who was the station’s Head of News at the time, problems occurred due to strong objections by Saviour Balzan who was given a TV programme funded by the government. He added that although Balzan’s programme was not popular, had low audience ratings and was not commercially viable for TVM, Balzan still insisted that his programme must be aired during prime time.
Bundy said that although he had clashed with the board over this, he still followed their decision and let Balzan have his prime time slot.
Yet following the incident, the board started digging into various aspects of Bundy’s decisions including the procurement of vehicles needed for the company.
He also told the court that he had heard his job was terminated from TV.
In its decision, the court said that while there were irregularities in the leasing of the cars for PBS, Bundy was not the only one responsible as there were other senior PBS officials involved.
The Tribunal said that despite what happened over the procurement issue, the board could have never terminated Bundy’s job without first giving him the opportunity to defend himself in a proper disciplinary process.
This led the tribunal to declare Bundy’s termination illegal and awarded him a hefty compensation.
Recently, disgraced former Chief of Staff Keith Schembri said in court that Saviour Balzan used to go to his office at Castille “demanding” TV programmes.