Xarabank under fire for portrayal of people with a disability during fundraising telethon

Friday’s programme, like many before it, included features telling the stories of many of the house’s residents, as well as of the carers without whom the home would not be able to function as it does today

Oliver Scicluna (right) said he did not doubt the intentions of Xarabank host Peppi Azzopardi (inset)
Oliver Scicluna (right) said he did not doubt the intentions of Xarabank host Peppi Azzopardi (inset)

A total of €335,293 was raised for id-Dar tal-Providenza on Friday during a fund-raising telethon held on Xarabank.

Friday’s programme, like many before it, included features telling the stories of many of the house’s residents, as well as of the carers without whom the home would not be able to function as it does today.

The commissioner for the Rights of Persons with a Disability, Oliver Scicluna, took to Facebook, however, to lament the way in which people with a disability were being portrayed.

“While I understand that id-Dar tal-Providenza needs money to operate, I can never agree with the way in which Xarabank has prepared tonight’s programme,” wrote Scicluna.

“[It] is based on tears, suffering and sadness. Few were the moments in which we saw the positive aspects of people. I fear that sometimes we end up working against each other and continue to confuse society about what people with a disability truly want.”

Scicluna’s post was liked by over 200 people with many choosing to comment and voice their opinion.

Many agreed that while the programme’s format allowed for more much needed funds to be collected, the portrayal of people with a disability as being in need of charity did more harm than good in the long run.

“Certain comments could have been avoided! Why does disability always have to need charity? It’s true that a lot of good is done for the many residents but I don’t agree when one only shows the negative and suffering associated with disability,” wrote one Facebook user.

In another comment, Scicluna said that his main bone of contention was not with the features but rather with the fact that having a disability was portrayed as being “some tragedy”. Others pointed out that living with a disability was not the same as being sick and that the programme did not do enough to distinguish between the two.

Learning from each other

When contacted, Scicluna stressed that his comments were simply a reflection of what he felt and that they were not driven by any secret agenda.

Scicluna said that while he did not doubt host Peppi Azzopardi’s intentions, he felt that more could have been done to show the more positive side of the lives of people with a disability.

He too pointed out that while in an ideal world, such homes could be funded by the government, in reality donations were needed to keep them going.

He said that he and Azzopardi had agreed to meet and discuss certain points which might help improve similar programmes in the future.

On his part, Azzopardi said he was always happy to learn more and was looking forward to meeting Scicluna, especially since he had not exactly understood what was offensive.

Azzopardi stressed that the programme was not asking for charity, but was asking people to donate money because the people they would be helping had a right to a better life.

“These are realities, what’s so wrong with showing reality?” he asked.

Azzopardi too said that in an ideal world, donations would not be necessary, but stressed that the truth was that people needed to be shown what others were going through for them to donate.

He said that while many portrayed the programme as one that was willing to exploit people’s vulnerability for donations, its producers went to great lengths to ensure that sensitive subjects are dealt with in an appropriate manner.

“We discuss our guests with Appogg before every programme, and they advise us not to feature some cases, even when the parents would like it to be featured,” Azzopardi said, adding that he is approached with a new case everyday. “Less than 1% of them end up on TV but we help all of them.”

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