Minister calls PBS 15-day memo to producers unreasonable

Carmelo Abela says PBS memo to producers to notify head of news of programme content two weeks in advance is unreasonable

Minister Carmelo Abela
Minister Carmelo Abela

Minister Carmelo Abela has said the 15-day notice expected by the PBS management for current affairs programmes is “unreasonable”.

“While it is well within their remit, as is stated in the Programme Statement of Intent (PSI), I do feel that 15 days is exaggerated,” Abela told MaltaToday.

Reports in the media on Tuesday explained how current affairs programmes producers were “to obtain approval from the PBS management” before proceeding with the topics of their programmes.

“The management needs to be informed 15 days in advance with the topics which are going to be discussed in their respective programmes and relative guests,” the memo sent by chairman Mark Sammut read.

All details are also to be sent to TVM’s head of news Normal Saliba.

The memo sent to current affairs programmes producers
The memo sent to current affairs programmes producers

The memo has opened the public broadcaster to claims of censorship.

Carmelo Abela, who is the minister responsible for state broadcasting, insisted that the PSI has been in place for years, due to the fact that any libel proceedings against any of the programmes aired on TVM will be directed to the editor, in this case Norma Saliba.

“To exercise this responsibility, the PBS has to have the right for information before the programme is aired, as is explained clearly in the statement of intent,” Abela said.

He also said he had no knowledge of the 15-day minimum notification period.

“The national broadcaster is well within its rights, but I do feel that it has to be reasonable, especially in the context of current affairs programmes,” he said.

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Mark Sammut said the memo was only sent out so topics can be included in the schedule, and to providers of "EPC [electronic program guide] TV guides".

"Topics would be obviously subject to change," he said.

Speaking in parliament on Monday, Carmelo Abela played down claims by the Opposition that the national broadcaster was being strategically controlled by the government to present “imbalanced reporting.”

Abela said the opposition was not right in their criticism of the national broadcaster.

He also praised reforms being carried out at PBS.