The Malta Independent 24 February 2020, Monday

PBS disassociates itself from TVM presenter’s partisan comments

Thursday, 28 February 2019, 09:34 Last update: about 13 months ago

The national television station has disassociated itself from partisan online comments made by one of its presenters - Jean Claude Micallef.

Micallef’s post was related to the viral video of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and his wife Michelle jumping and chanting political songs during a party held at Girgenti Palace – the PM’s official summer residence. The video went viral on social media last week.

Taking the PM’s defence, Micallef, who hosts a daily afternoon show on TVM, asked who had a bigger right to celebrate that “the person who had the biggest political success in Malta’s history and who had brought success to the country.”

Micallef said certain individuals who had decried the video did not even realise how envious they were being.

Among them was a person “who had been caught going abroad with his lady friend behind his wife’s back, and who pretended to be a purist,” Micallef wrote, in an obvious reference to PN MP Jason Azzopardi.

Others included someone who had failed the systems he had been entrusted with and failed at the elections, someone who had got drunk on public finances and later dug into his own party’s finances and someone who still cannot understand how the people who he was taught were inferior to him became immeasurable successes.

“L-ghira oht il-genn,” he wrote – a Maltese saying which loosely translates into “envy leads to madness.”

Micallef regularly posts comments of a political or partisan nature.

Replying to questions by this newspaper, Reno Bugeja, PBS News and Current Affairs Manager and a member of the editorial board said the station was disassociating itself from Micallef’s comments.

While the comments were made in Micallef’s personal capacity and not within the context of the show he presents, PBS still feels that the broadcasting guidelines should be applied in cases like this one and the station has brought the matter to the attention of the said presenter, Bugeja said, in a reply which was also carbon copied to PBS Chairman Tonio Portughese.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Broadcasting Authority said the matter should be addressed to PBS given that, according to Subsidiary Legislation 350.14 any off air activity, including writing which can lead to any doubt about their objectivity on air, should be addressed by the public service broadcaster.

“As the legislation states, such rules are not enforceable by the Broadcasting Authority but may be applied by the public service broadcaster.”

The BA quoted the relevant parts of the Subsidiary Legislation, which says that “producers of news and current affairs programmes should have no outside interests or commitments which could damage the public service broadcaster ’s reputation for impartiality, fairness and integrity.”

Another section of the legislation says that “Those known to the public primarily as presenters of, or reporters on, news programmes or programmes about current affairs broadcast on the public service broadcaster must be seen to be impartial. It is important that no off-air activity, including writing, the giving of interviews or the making of speeches, lead to any doubt about their objectivity on-air. If such presenters or reporters publicly express personal views off-air on controversial issues, then their on-air role may be severely compromised. It is crucial that in both their work with the public service broadcaster and in other non-public service broadcasting activities such as writing, speaking or giving interviews, they do not: (i) state how they vote or express support for any political party; (ii) express views for or against any policy which is a matter of current party political debate; (iii) advocate any particular position on an issue of current public controversy or debate; and (iv) exhort a change in high profile public policy.

Micallef’s Facebook post was still online by late yesterday afternoon.

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