Simon Busuttil - Labour demanded that he be invited to Dissett but it appears that the PBS editorial board was unwilling to have both deputy leaders on the programme.
The first television debate between the deputy leaders of the Nationalist and Labour parties could be scheduled for the 11 January on Xarabank, as the jury is still out on whether current affairs programme Dissett will be hosting the debate on 5 January.
The Public Broadcasting Services have hinted in a statement that a "recommendation" by the Broadcasting Authority to have Simon Busuttil and Louis Grech feature on Dissett on 5 January, might still not be taken on board by the station's editorial board.
Earlier today, the BA met with urgency on a complaint by the PN after today's edition of Dissett was to feature only Labour deputy leader for parliamentary affairs Louis Grech. The PN insisted that Busuttil should also be present.
Labour has declared that it had asked Dissett's producers at the outset to have Simon Busuttil also on the programme, but PBS declined to have both deputy leaders on the show, since both were scheduled to appear on the Xarabank debate on 11 January.
Instead, the PL proposed today that both deputy leaders participate in the 5 January edition of Dissett, so as to respect the Christmas truce agreed between the two parties. This meant that Dissett's edition of tonight (Saturday) had to be postponed.
"Labour asked for a debate between Louis Grech and Simon Busuttil on Dissett days ago, when it first received the invitation for Louis Grech and before the Nationalist Party decide to try and create an issue. It was solely PBS's decision to invite Louis Grech on his own," a PL spokesperson told MaltaToday.
On its part, PBS has pointed out that the BA's decision was not a directive but a recommendation, and that it was the editorial board to determine whether the debate will take place on Dissett or not.
"PBS notes that before the announcement of the new deputy leader, the station had already scheduled a debate for 11 January on Xarabank between the two party deputy leaders, which debate was already known to both parties. This will take place as planned."
The indications are that PBS is preferring to have both deputy leaders face off in front of the live Xarabank audience.
While both parties appear to have reached some sort of agreement today to have the Dissett debate postponed to 5 January, the PN issued its own statement to claim that Labour was trying to avoid the debate. "Labour's excuse was that the debate had to take place after the Christmas and New Year's holidays," the PN said.
"It looks like that as long as Louis Grech was to be alone in the studio there was no problem for this programme to take place during the holidays, but as soon as the PN asked to have Simon Busuttil present, Labour found an excuse to avoid this debate.
"This proves that Labour is not prepared to discuss policies on employment, health and education with PN representatives."
On its part, Labour has insisted that when it had received the invitation to Dissett it had asked to have Simon Busuttil in the studio. "PBS informed us of the decision to have Louis Grech feature on Dissett on his own. To avoid any controversy, Labour has agreed to have the deputy leaders meet on Dissett on another date... this a decision that respects the Christmas truce between both parties."
A PL spokesperson insisted that it was PBS that was bent on not having Simon Busuttil on the same Dissett edition as Grech. "The Nationalist Party is so set in its plans to hide Lawrence Gonzi that it is trying to create any possible diversion to make this an election between deputy leaders. Unfortunately for the Nationalist Party, it's not.