The satirical television programme VIP Xow has been suspended by the national broadcaster after the station editor found a clip aired in last Monday’s show to be illegal and in bad taste.
The offensive part involved a game in which contestants were asked to hurl shoes at three tins featuring photos of President George Abela, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and Labour leader Joseph Muscat. According to law it is illegal to ridicule the President.
Following a meeting of the Public Broadcasting Services’ editorial board on Friday, the VIP Xow producers were informed their programme was being suspended with immediate effect, The Sunday Times learnt.
The decision was taken on grounds that the board had to ensure laws were respected and that the station’s reputation was not prejudiced.
VIP Xow show, aired on TVM on Mondays at 10 p.m., was one of the new programmes during the launch of the 2010-2011 schedule in September.
It is presented by popular comic trio Zoo – Chrysander Agius and Daniel Chircop together with Owen Bonnici, known in the programme as Freddie Hotpants.
On last Monday’s show, Alternattiva Demokratika’s former chairman Arnold Cassola was one of four guests.
When it was Prof. Cassola’s turn to play the shoe-throwing game, the tins were brought very close to him so he could hit them easily, knock them down and “finally win something” – a play on AD’s lack of electoral success.
The decision taken by PBS to black out the game was criticised by the Front Against Censorship.
Last Thursday, PBS editor Natalino Fenech said the decision had nothing to do with censorship and pointed out it was illegal to ridicule the President.
The Press Act says that whoever uses “defamatory, insulting or disparaging words, acts or gestures” in contempt of the President would be committing a criminal offence liable to a jail term of up to three months or a fine. Dr Fenech also said he thought the game was in bad taste.
Despite not being aired on TVM, the clip was uploaded onto Facebook and the video-sharing website You Tube.
It was then removed from circulation after the VIP Xow team were advised to withdraw it by their lawyer, presenter Chrysander Agius had said.
“The law is there and I respect it even though I might not agree with it.
“When the script was written it did not cross our minds it was in bad taste or potentially illegal,” he said, adding it was just meant to be funny.
Members of the VIP Xow team could not be reached for comment yesterday.