The Malta Independent 25 May 2024, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: A new low for PBS and TVM

Wednesday, 10 April 2024, 10:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

It was supposed to be a day of national unity, one of the few occasions in which the country comes together under one collective roof to bid farewell to the “old” President of the Republic and welcome the “new” Head of State.

But the Public Broadcasting Station, and its TVM programmes, found a way to mess it all up.

Last Thursday, George Vella’s term in office as President expired and he was succeeded by Myriam Spiteri Debono.


We speak of national unity also because the government and opposition were hand in hand on this one. This was the first time in the country’s history that a two-thirds majority was required in the House of Representatives on the nomination of the President.

It was thought that this was a difficult hurdle to overcome, especially after the PN made it clear that it did not want anyone who was part of the Joseph Muscat Cabinet, found collectively responsible by a public inquiry into the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. But, at the 11th hour, the Labour Party and Nationalist Party came to terms on the person who is to serve as the Head of State for the next five years.

It was a breakthrough that avoided a constitutional crisis. If this agreement had not been reached, a temporary solution would have been required until the impasse was resolved. It would have been an embarrassment for the whole country if no accord had been found. On this occasion, the two major parties showed the maturity that was needed to find common ground and unity on the President’s nomination.

But PBS, and its TVM programmes, found a way to create division.

As expected, PBS and TVM gave the occasion the importance that it deserved, by offering a marathon programme that saw viewers through the whole ceremony, starting from Spiteri Debono leaving her home in Birkirkara right through the Mass at St John’s Co-Cathedral and the swearing-in ceremony at the Palace, followed by her laying a wreath at the foot of the War Memorial and her first arrival at her official residence at San Anton Palace.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.

What was wrong was that, for this day, PBS and TVM chose to have in the studio three former Labour Ministers and a former columnist of the Labour-leaning Torca newspaper. No one from the other side of the political fence.

Helena Dalli (we’ve already written about her bitterness), Karmenu Vella and Alex Sceberras Trigona were in the studio together with Godfrey Pirotta in what was an almost surreal Labour-tinged situation.

It would have certainly been more appropriate for PBS and TVM to have someone from the opposition taking part too. It would have been a sign that PBS and TVM at least are willing to try to appear unbiased – given that so many accusations of impartiality are levelled at them.

But PBS and TVM chose to put national unity aside, even on an occasion when both sides of the House of Representatives had agreed on something as important as the person who is to occupy the Office of the Presidency.

It’s a new low for the national station, one that could have easily been avoided.

What a shame.

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