[WATCH] Peppi Azzopardi: ‘Axing of Xarabank will not silence me’

Peppi Azzopardi: keeping Xarabank on Friday’s top slot for 23 years was no mean feat

Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi
Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi

Xarabank presenter Peppi Azzopardi has questioned the wisdom behind a PBS decision to remove the show he has hosted for the last 23 years, when it consistently registered the country’s highest TV ratings.

The show was removed from its historic Friday primetime slot. Azzopardi, who created the show but is today employed as a presenter by a production company that owns the programme, said he was stunned by the decision.

“Xarabank has continued to attract audiences, with the most recent broadcasting survey showing it was the most watched programme in Malta. I ask anyone in the line of media and communication: if you have someone communicating well with the people, how do you just decide to sack them?” he told MaltaToday in an interview.

He said that the removal of Xarabank would not stop him being outspoken on TV or on social media. “If there was anyone who thought I will stop talking, or that they had removed Xarabank’s power, they are very wrong,” he said.

He said his personal Facebook livestreams might also have affected the decision to axe the Friday night show. “People need to hear a different voice,” he insisted.

“Xarabank was able to evolve with the times and with people’s thinking, that is why I think it was able to retain audiences,” he said, saying retaining the top position on Friday night is no mean feat. “Unless someone wants to take it up as a challenge, they wouldn’t pick the Friday night slot. We didn’t go there with an established audience, we had to build our viewership over the years.”

He defended his bias as a presenter who shunned neutrality but always declared his own agenda. “I’ve always said it, you will only find unbiased people at the graveyard,” he said. “I would always declare my bias with the audience in order to allow them to properly form an opinion. I would still try to remain fair, but no presenter can never not have any bias.”

Azzopardi also attributed his philanthropic streak in using Xarabank for good causes and the plight of migrants and minorities, as an ethic inspired by Jesus Christ. “How can I not do anything when a homeless person comes to me with his story, or a prisoner’s family member on the abuse he is facing?”