Tribunal says PBS axing of Claudette Buttigieg was abusive

A tribunal says a decision by PBS to stop Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg from presenting a television show after she announced her candidature, was abusive

Nationalist Claudette Buttigieg
Nationalist Claudette Buttigieg

A tribunal has declared a decision by the Public Broadcasting Authority to stop Nationalist MP Claudette Buttigieg from presenting a television show after she announced her candidature, to be abusive.

The case dates back to September 2012, when Buttigieg was presenting a television show called ’Sellili’. 

Before the station switched to its winter programming schedule, Buttigeg informed PBS that she had not yet decided whether to contest the 2013 general election on the PN ticket.

On 15 September, when she announced that she would be participating in the elections, she received an e-mail informing her of PBS’s decision to stop her from presenting the show. 

PBS argued that allowing her to present her chat show would give her more airtime and therefore an unfair advantage over other candidates.

Buttigieg filed an appeal against this decision together with a judicial protest, on the grounds that her show did not contain political commentary and its intended audience was housewives.

Buttigieg contended that she had a long career in broadcasting and that the decision to axe her programme would seriously affect her income. 

She said the editorial board’s decision was “arbitrary and without any basis” and insisted that the candidature would not have an impact on the quality of the show and pointed out that her programme did not deal with political and current affairs.

The presenter said broadcasting was her only source of income and PBS was denying her livelihood by barring her from presenting the show on TVM.

The protest cited a judgment by the Court of Appeal on 31 May 2002 in the case of John Bundy and Clyde Puli v the Broadcasting Authority as having established that PBS’s decision was tantamount to abuse, she said.

The protest was filed against PBS, members of PBS’s editorial board and the company she had made the agreement with, to host the show – Limited.

The company owned by Buttigieg and her husband is called Cliché Media Entertainment Co Ltd.

PBS objected to the claims and filed a counter protest, saying the editorial board had taken a reasonable decision when considering the circumstances of the time.

The Administrative Tribunal, presided over by magistrate Charmaine Galea, David Fabri and Antoine Naudi found for Buttigieg, noting the testimony coming of former chairman of the PBS board of directors, Joe Mizzi, who had said the decision taken the day after Buttigieg announced her candidacy as being in line with their policy at the time.

He said, however, that shortly after this took place and before the 2013 general election, PBS no longer observed this policy.

The tribunal upheld Buttigieg’s request and declared the decision to be abusive, however it did not accept her request to award damages as this did not fall within its remit.

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