The government sent out a clear signal that it is not planning to implement any changes at the state broadcaster, PBS, despite growing concerns among local and international NGOs.
Minister Owen Bonnici reappointed the same board of directors and the same Editorial Board for the next years, clearly snubbing calls for change.
The only casualty from the board which served until the last general elections in March is university lecturer and former participant in Labour’s Lead Programme Maria Brown, who has been replaced on the board by veteran Labour-leaning lawyer Edward Woods.
All the other members of the board, including the politically-appointed chairman, Mark Sammut, have been reconfirmed. The other members include those with a series of conflicts of interest such as Labour stalwarts Pablo Micallef, Ray Calleja and Albert Marshall, who, apart from acting as PBS board members also conduct their own TV shows on the stations owned by the publicly-funded company to receive extra remuneration for their shows.
Even Mark Vassallo, the lawyer who represents disgraced OPM chief of staff Keith Schembri in court, and who during the last electoral campaign was caught directing live political TV broadcasts for Labour One TV, in breach of the PBS code of ethics, has been confirmed by Owen Bonnici as the stations’ board secretary.
Contacted by The Shift, Maria Brown confirmed that she has not been re-appointed on the PBS board but insisted that she had no divergencies with the administration.
“After the last elections, I offered my resignation as per protocol as all the other members of the board. I have not been reappointed to the board as this is the minister’s prerogative,” Brown told The Shift.
Asked if there was any reason for her axing, Brown said that there wasn’t, and ruled out the possibility of her seeking a political career through the contesting of the next MEP elections.
Minister Bonnici also reappointed the same three-member editorial board at PBS, even though the station has been found in breach of the Constitution regarding impartiality only a few weeks ago, and slammed by Judge Grazio Mercieca for its attitude.
Confirming Joseph Sammut – a low key labour-leaning former Air Malta manager – as the head of the editorial board, Owen Bonnici also reappointed Charles Flores and Martin Fenech as members.
Flores, is the only member who has journalism experience, even though he was the Head of PBS news in one of its darkest periods of its history in the 80s uner former prime ministers Dom Mintoff and Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici.
Lawyer Martin Fenech, who has absolutely no journalism experience, used to be a PN candidate until 2013, and is the government’s face of impartiality on the editorial board.