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Lou Bondì part of clique that ‘programmed’ my resignation – John Dalli

Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando tells Peppi Azzopardi: “Your association with Lou Bondì does not befit you”.

Matthew Vella
17 October 2011, 12:00am
The controversy surrounding public broadcasting honed in on the contested impartiality of its most dominant media house Where’s Everybody and its directors Peppi Azzopardi and Lou Bondì, as MPs, broadcasters and publicists traded blows on the state of the Public Broadcasting Services.

PBS chairman Anton Attard made a rare media appearance by the side of Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi on One TV’s Inkontri to defend the choice of Where’s Everybody programmes on national television against a panel of Labour and Nationalist critics.

But it was WE director and Bondiplus presenter Lou Bondì – not present on the talk-show – who came in for particular criticism by Pullicino Orlando and former minister John Dalli.

Pullicino Orlando, who revealed that Peppi Azzopardi had ‘coached’ him how to face down former Labour leader Alfred Sant during the 2008 general elections, said Bondì’s programme was “damaging” to the Nationalist administration.

“I have to disagree with Gino Cauchi,” he wryly told the Labour MP who claims that Bondì’s personal blogging against the Labour party and his declared Nationalist sympathies make him unsuitable for public broadcasting. “If anyone thinks he is doing the Nationalist administration a favour they are wrong… on which public broadcaster does anybody get two programmes a week?”

He also called “stooges” the Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia, PBS editorial board member Fr Joe Borg, and Times columnist Andrew Borg Cardona, accusing them of creating “immeasurable damage” to the PN.

“Peppi, your association with Bondì does not befit you,” he told the Xarabank presenter.

European Commissioner John Dalli, interviewed by Inkontri presenter Joe Grima, repeated accusations against Bondì of being part of a clique that “programmed” the pressure brought upon him to resign.

John Dalli interviewed on Inkontri (mp3)John Dalli interviewed on Inkontri (mp3)

Dalli accused PBS of having known of the existence of the private investigator’s report that falsely implicated him in fictitious kickbacks for a multi-million euro hospital contract, that ultimately led to his resignation in 2004. He specifically referred to the fact that the investigator, Joe Zahra, had been an employee of production house Where’s Everybody, which produces Xarabank and Bondiplus for PBS.

“Joe Zahra produced programmes for Lou Bondì and authored a false report that led to me being dumped from the Cabinet… Bondì later used his programme to deal me the fatal blow,” Dalli said, referring to his participation on Bondiplus just days before his resignation.

Dalli said he had “no doubt” that Bondì was part of a clique that “programmed” the pressure that led to his resignation. “Weeks later Bondì boasted in a promo that his programme had led to my resignation,” Dalli said. He mentioned Times journalist Ivan Camilleri as another person who played a role in bringing pressure to bear upon him.

“Zahra was offered a €2 million reward if his clients took the Mater Dei contract they were contesting… was this reward just for him, or was he going to share the money, I don’t know,” Dalli said.

Azzopardi’s role in coaching Pullicino Orlando during the 2008 general elections has raised questions over the impartiality of the production house, which still produces the most popular discussion and entertainment shows on PBS, and its ties to the Nationalist administration.

Pullicino Orlando said it was he who asked for Peppi Azzopardi to assist him. “He helped me face a difficult situation in my life… I gave him the facts and he guided me how to best transmit these ideas in the most limited of time-frames to face Sant in the Broadcasting Authority press conference… there was no political input from Peppi.”

PBS chairman Anton Attard defended the station’s decision to retain Xarabank and Bondiplus in its broadcasting schedule.

Attard said both programmes are not financed by the extended public service obligation funds and are chosen by a public call for tender. He added that Xarabank leaves PBS with an undisclosed amount of revenue: “Why wouldn’t I accept a programme that nets PBS its revenue… it’s the most popular programme,” Attard said.

But Labour MP Gino Cauchi said that Bondiplus had once already been dropped from the schedule of the public broadcaster, but PBS was forced to reopen the call for tenders so that Bondiplus could be ‘picked’ for broadcasting.

Azzopardi defended his mediatic role when interviewing Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi. “We faced him with workers who lost their jobs and made him answer their questions directly.”

He also said Xarabank had won numerous awards for its work. “We have covered Libya, Palestine, the Twin Towers’ attack and the tsunami,” Azzopardi said in an emphatic defence of the quality of his programming.

But his critics laughed at some of his hyperbole: “We went to war!” Azzopardi said.

He took credit for praise by Latif Yahia - the body double of Uday Hussein whose life was turned into a Hollywood movie - who told him he enjoyed his Xarabank interview more than the grilling he had on the flagship BBC programme Hardtalk.

"He's only taking you for a ride," publicist Godfrey Grima, an unrelenting critic of Where's Everybody throughout the programme, said.

On his part, Azzopardi touched a raw nerve when he asked Grima whether his endorsement of Joseph Muscat’s leadership bid in 2008 meant he could now be dismissed as a Labour voter. Grima slammed his fist on the desk: “Don’t be false with me. What I did was public… unlike what you did.”

Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
marthese cassar
This whole row is indeed superb (free) publicity for Bondiplus and Xarabank. Two people came out well in last night's Joe Grima Farce, namely blue-eyed boy Anton Attard, the PBS CEO (NB: Joe Mizzi, Julia Farrugia's good friend is the PBS chairman) and Peppi. Two other people came out looking like dreadful dinosaurs, Joe and Godfrey. Dreadful. But that's the Grima's for ya!
anna caruana
@Antoine Vella. The time on the audio bar says and proves nothing. My comp has been out of synch for quite some time. Don't you know, or Loo knows that if the time on the comp is out of synch, the time shown will be the comp's and not real time? I repeat the time on the audio bar proves nothing! Another bubble easily burst!
Karl Cremona
The dummies in the Partit Mintoffjan have still not realised that all this is excellent publicity for Xarabank and Bondi+.
anna caruana
@Antoine Vella. Allura JPO ukoll mal-Labour?
Robert Aquilina
Extra...Extra...Extra. The great gozitan canadian oracle of PBS discovered that MT is part of the PL. Shame....shame....shame. My,'s unheard of that an independent publication house receives some leaks from a source to be the first to publish it. God forbid that an 'independent publication' should have a mole to provide it's editorial board with controversial information. It seem that this 'God's gift to journalism on everything' has been accustomed with the monopoly he had of receiving and giving sensational news from and to his circle of friends to be transmitted in the form of impartial information. Oh God what a curse on poor Malta. How sad that now only the ex Stricland house paper can boost to be the real guardian of unbiased and impartial news.....and I am the sultan of Bahrain!!!
Joseph Grima
@ REFNER Siehbi dak GHAWDXI missek tibatu GHAWDEX. Il CANADA mghandiex bzonn hmieg bhal dak.
Nicholas Balzan
Il-lejburisti bvilfors jilmentaw ghax fi zmienhom UKOLL il-PBS kien jiffavorixxi lill-PN. Hux veru?
josephine borg
It is becoming a custom with TMO, whenever some news is not to the liking of government, it is being politely buried on their portal. The article about this issue is one of them.
Ritienne Mifsud
PBS should be there to inform,educate and entertain, always without bias and with truth and honesty.This goes equally for Campus FM . Wheter they do so or not ,is not impossible for someone with a modicum of common sense to fathom out.
anton sciberras
Paul Spiteri
People who still tune on TVM to watch there absurd programs are supporting these people indirectly. TVM is a very low standard station when compared to NET and ONE. We as tax payers deserve better than this, these people have hijacked our national TV station.
jesmond zammit
Lil Dalli riedu jizbarzawh min nofs !!! Tajt Min ? Lou Bondi wara il-programme tal-bierah missu jmur il-Canada jerga !! jekk dejjem jaf jisthi !!
Carm Cachia
John ilu li hallikom. LOL
Nicholas Balzan
Hallina John!
marthese cassar
Andrew Borg Cardona is not only "a PN stooge". Guess which company he represents as a lawyer? PBS!! You couldn't make it up.