John Bundy | Will he march for the ‘puppeteers’ he sang about?

John Bundy had refused to say whether he had any interest in heading PBS, while hinting, however, that he would be up to the job

John Bundy: he says he does not do ‘half-baked measures’ and once said PBS needs to create a balance that reaches everyone
John Bundy: he says he does not do ‘half-baked measures’ and once said PBS needs to create a balance that reaches everyone

The man once heavily associated with the Nationalist Party is now preparing to take over at the Public Broadcasting Services as Chief Executive Officer, under a Labour administration.

Attempts to contact John Bundy by phone proved futile but informed sources confirmed with MaltaToday that the household name will become the new PBS chief as of next week, succeeding Anton Attard.

In a revealing interview with newspaper Illum in February, Bundy had refused to say whether he had any interest in heading PBS, insisting that he did not have such specific wishes.

However, he did hint that he would be up to the job: “Everyone knows what experience I have; everyone knows what I do in broadcasting and everyone knows that there are no half-baked measures with me.”

Bundy was however a critical voice of the state of public broadcasting, when he said in the same interview that PBS should be renamed to “State Broadcasting Services because that is what it is… Despite the change in administration, nothing has changed. PBS’s policy should be one of educating, giving more opportunities and creating a balance that reaches everyone. Is PBS fulfilling this mission?”

Whether his own leadership will be free of the state’s tentacles, will be something yet to be seen.

Bundy had admitted to having considered the position of CEO at PBS after the elections. “It’s true, I did consider the position of CEO but it’s difficult for this to happen with PBS in the clutches of Silvio Scerri.”

Before the 2014 Cabinet reshuffle, the Public Broadcasting Services fell under the responsibility of Minister Manuel Mallia, who at the time had Silvio Scerri as his chief of staff. It was no secret that the two men did not see eye to eye: during the fracas that ensued after broadcaster Norman Vella was recalled to his job in the civil service, Scerri sued Bundy for defamation when the latter was said to have told Vella his removal from PBS had been on Scerri’s command.

The incumbent CEO, Anton Attard, an events impresario famed for his technical know-how, will leave PBS after six years at the helm, having been given the post in 2010. The former Nationalist strategist, campaigner and head of programming at NET TV is also a director at NNG Promotions, organisers of the annual Joseph Calleja summer concert, amongst several others.

Attard is known in the industry for his expertise in audiovisual and digital media and was responsible for Malta’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest victories in 2013 and 2015.

But his Nationalist pedigree earned him the usual crop of Labour critics, the most vociferous being Jason Micallef, executive chairman of One TV, who blamed him for Malta’s “abysmal” showing during last year’s Eurovision semi-final. Many a times, Micallef would take to Facebook criticising Attard and calling for his resignation.

Bundy has had stints at all of Malta’s television stations, in a career that has spanned 25 years. He started his broadcasting career as a radio host in 1986 on Radju Malta, before moving to the PN’s Radio 101 – at the time known as ‘Project Radio’. Radio 101 was launched in 1991. Bundy considered it his “baby” – his was the first voice to air on Radio 101.

He has hosted TV programmes, daytime and breakfast shows on TVM, One TV and Smash TV. Between 2002 and 2008, he presented shows on TVM, including Hawn Ahna, Bongu, Mill-Ghatba ’l Gewwa and Ta’ Bundy.

In 2009 he switched to the Labour Party’s One TV, where he presented Bongu Bundy and current affairs programme Affari Taghna. Bundy had also revealed in an interview that then Opposition leader Joseph Muscat had contacted him by email, when the latter fell out with the PN. That hand of friendship landed Bundy his breakfast show on One TV.

Bundy’s sudden switch to the Labour media surprised many, not least because he was considered as the “entertainment arm of the PN”. Every mass meeting would have seen Bundy as master of ceremonies, firing up the Nationalist supporters before Eddie Fenech Adami’s address; he organised fund-raisers and was highly prized for his role as an ‘energiser’ of the PN crowds.

As a radio deejay, he also became a Guinness World record breaker for singlehandedly transmitting live on radio for 51 hours non-stop.

But to many, perhaps his biggest claim for recognition would be that of having the voice that sang one of Malta’s most known pop songs: the 1995 hit Pajjiz tal-Mickey Mouse (A Mickey Mouse country), with which he won the Ghanja tal-Poplu festival. Written and composed by the late Martin Attard, the song pokes fun at the Maltese with the popular lyric “we lived and we still live in a Mickey Mouse country, where those on top pull the string, and we puppets march to their tune” (“konna u ghadna nghixu f’pajjiz tal-Mickey Mouse, fejn ta’ fuq jigbdu l-ispaga u ahna l-pupazzi nimmarcjaw”.)

They will be words he will have to consider in his new role at PBS, notorious for the influence of governmental actors. 

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